JCB Longlisted "What We Know About Her" by Krupa Ge failed to impress in many ways : Spoilers Alert
Updated: Dec 20, 2021
What we know about her by Krupa Ge is a longlisted title for JCB Prize 2021. That is when I heard about it first. The cover, the blurb and reviews convinced me to pick it up first from the list. So, I read it. And oh boy, I am frustrated and disappointed. A long rant ahead, plus potential spoilers. If you are planning to skip this book, go ahead and read it. If you want to read the book, skip my rant.
Before I begin my tirade, let me highlight a few good things about the book. Krupa Ge’s writing is ingenious. It is something that will leave mark on the reader. The themes this book covers in parts are important: Women and their lives in the 1940s, multi-generational family secrets, social-political backdrop, domestic violence, etc. That's all. But to make all this stands out, the execution of the story needs to be good, which fell flat for me.
The book began well for me. It built up my interest to know why our narrator Yamuna is meeting her grandfather, why inheriting the house matter so much to her, her research, and the letters she has of her grandmother Subbu and grandaunt Lalitha. One of the initial letters leaves you curious about Lalitha very much. She was a musician, a superstar and a fashion icon with worldwide fans. After around the first 50 pages, the book baffled me. The story started wandering, which I assumed will come together in the end, but I was wrong.
I found some chapters and characters unrelated to the story. Like why on the earth I would like to know about the insects and mosquitoes around the house. There’s one whole chapter to it. There’s a part where the party happens, the characters ( Asha and her boyfriend) are so irrelevant and do not even appear in the story ever again. Not even a reference to their conversation with Yamuna. (Ch 13) Then there's the love life of Yamuna. I think her past love interest (Nikhil) was unnecessary. Because he did not play any role, not even as a help. I understand that not everything in the narrative has to make sense. It frustrated me because, while focusing on all these random details, the essence of the story got lost. Everything was left without a conclusion.
I would have loved to know more about Lalitha, her life, Subbu and her husband, music, and at least some conclusion in the end. If you want to leave it open-ended, give us some clues to decipher. I did not understand about the house, the smell in the house, Lalitha's death, even about Yamuna's mother's intentions. In the end, I was like " Chalo abhi kuchh nahi to bhoot hi dikha do" ( Now, at least show me the ghost)
The initial part of the book made me curious about something else i.e. Lalitha and the scandal and then it talked about Yamuna and her love life. Okay fine, talk about it but at least close that chapter. If everything was to leave open-ended, I don’t know what was to be conveyed. I am frustrated. I tried super hard to understand the symbolism, the hidden meanings, it did not make sense. No book has left me as puzzled as this.
The grandfather died without leaving any clue. The Karthik was of no use. The mother and daughter matter did not resolve. The house remained the mystery. So did the Lalitha. ( Even if some letters talked about her life)
So the conclusion is: No, we do not know anything about her.
I am highly disappointed. I do not recommend this.