Thursday, March 01, 2018

Book Review - The Temple Bar Woman (✩✩✩)

Received this review copy from Writers Melon.

This book had all the qualities of being a 4 star, save the ending.
But I will get to that later.

The Temple Bar Woman is a story of a young, innocent Radha aka Rani aka Radhika Chaudhary who struggles to avenge her honour by punishing her rapist - Vikram Pratap Singh, a young politician and a spoilt brat - and his friends who gang-raped her for standing up to their shenanigans. The narrative traces the protagonist's journey from 1999, when she was just another girl ready to embrace life with open arms, till 2017, when she has become the Chief minister of Agria Pradesh.

Radha, a teacher in her father's school, is brutally gang-raped by three men and thrown at the mercy of Habiba Bi, the wicked and shrewd 'malkin' of the brothel - The Temple Bar. What follows is a series of incidents which makes Habiba Bi and Radha/Rani come together as an unparalleled force to overthrow their common enemy, Vikram Singh, and his father, Bharat Singh. Since both men are powerful and devious politicians, the women have to resort to lies, treachery and deceit in order to achieve their common goal - punish the men for their mis-deeds. In their path to seek justice, the woman step-over and lure the recently widowed Rakshit Singh, another upcoming politician of the opposition party. Over the course of years, Radha, now Radhika Chaudhary, uses her charm and her sharp-wits to make a place for herself in the party.

In the end, as is predicted, Radha manages to achieve what she was set on - the rapists are punished. That's pretty much it. Not kidding. (Maybe now you can understand my disappointment.)

What worked for me:

1. The first half of the story is realistic. Woman standing up to man ridiculing her being 'taught a lesson' is the reason why we read about so many rape and molestation cases worldwide. Somehow, one gender has to take the onus of showing the other its place, and what better way to do it than defile them mercilessly and suck the soul out of their living bodies. (*rolls eyes*)
The narrative was, hence, very plausible.

2. The Temple Bar - Coming from someone who volunteers her weekends at brothels, I can credibly say that the author has managed to highlight some very important and realistic scenarios that are a part of such places today. Yes, there is illegal trafficking. Yes, women are sold in sex trade against their will. But these is also a more humane side to it. These women, brought together by their collective ill-fates, have seen and experienced more life than us. Hence, when they consider you family, they will NEVER let you down and always have your back, come what may. I like how the author has managed to put that across, albeit very subtly.

3. The Character of Habiba Bi - I need to especially mention this as her character was the one that was the most honest, in my opinion. Portrayed as a selfish and cruel woman initially, it is almost gut-wrenching to see Habiba Bi in a sorry position after her son's tryst with Vikram. It was in this part of the book that I found the most honesty. The fragility of human emotions, the strong thread of relationships, and the soul-stirring fear of loss - all were portrayed perfectly.

What did not work for me:

1. The End - As I have already commented earlier, the end was such a 'thap'. There is no other way of putting it. What started as a powerful tale seemed extremely rushed towards the end; and the fact that it was a little too dramatic for my taste didn't help the case either.

2. The Suicide - The book starts with Radhika/Radha attempting suicide, so there is no spoiler here. The spoiler is that the reason is so, pardon me for using this word, stupid, it is almost comical. The suicide has absolutely no relevance whatsoever. Utterly disappointing.

The end result is that what started as an utterly promising story ended up being a cliche of sorts.

However, I am glad that the author is talking about a subject that needs more attention. And that's reason enough for me to recommend this one-time light read.

P.S. Special mention to the cover image which I, for the life of me, couldn't understand. It looks like that of a sadhu/sant; no relevance to the plot whatsoever. (Unless the person who designed it only read the word 'Temple' in the title.)

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CRD said...

Very good review.

The books comes across as a typical Bollywood revenge formula. In such books, the only attribute that could hold a reader would be the ingenuity utilised in the acts of revenge.

Mishika said...

I completely agree!
There was so much potential in this book, but the end killed that, along with all my hopes.

Mishika said...


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