*I received this book from PGC Books in exchange for an honest review.*
Title: One Part Woman
Author: Perumal Murugan
Publisher: Grove Press, Black Cat
Edition Publication Date: October 2018
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Set in South India during the British colonial period but with powerful resonance to the present day, One Part Woman tells the story of a couple, Kali and Ponna, who are unable to conceive, much to the concern of their families–and the crowing amusement of Kali’s male friends. Kali and Ponna try anything to have a child, including making offerings at different temples, atoning for past misdeeds of dead family members, and even circumambulating a mountain supposed to cure barren women, but all to no avail. A more radical plan is required, and the annual chariot festival, a celebration of the god Maadhorubaagan, who is one part woman, one part man, may provide the answer. On the eighteenth night of the festival, the festivities culminate in a carnival, and on that night the rules of marriage are suspended, and consensual sex between any man and woman is permitted. The festival may be the solution to Kali and Ponna’s problem, but it soon threatens to drive the couple apart as much as to bring them together.
What drew me to this book was the beautiful cover of this edition published by Grove Press’ imprint, Black Cat. This cover is so full of colour and is incredibly eye-catching. Secondly, the story sounded incredibly unique and potentially wrought with many emotions and challenges. I’m very torn about how I feel about this story. There is a lot in this book that I struggled with, which could in part be due to cultural difference. I took an opportunity with this book to try a translation unlike anything ever read before, but ultimately, this was a book that I didn’t connect with. I felt immense sadness at the struggles of the central couple, Kali and Ponna, as they struggle and fail for years to start a family. However, I didn’t connect with any of the characters and felt incredibly removed from the story, to the point where I occasionally felt lost as to what was happening. I don’t believe I’m the intended audience for a book like One Part Woman. Other reviews that I have see call this book “rich,” “emotional,” and “vivid.” It was none of these things for me.
I hope your experience reading this story is better than mine. It seems to have been well received by readers at large, and I would encourage you to not let my review stop you from trying out this book yourself.