The Forest of Enchantments - Book Review
Updated: Jul 12, 2020
The fourth book I read in 2020 is The Forest of Enchantments by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. The reason for reading this book is the same as the author’s reason behind writing this book. I wanted to know what Sita and other female characters of Ramayana went through. I wanted to know what it was like to be a woman then. Because, since childhood, all of us are hearing stories about how Ram, Laxman, Vanarsena and even Ravan.
This book is the Sitayan – The story of Sita or Sita’s version of Ramayan. But along with Sita, the author also made sure to portray each female character of the story and justified their significant roles. Nobody knows how capable Sita’s mother was or what Urmila suffered when Laxman was in the forest with Ram and Sita. When I read about these characters, I realized how powerful this book is and the amount of research the author must have done to describe things so beautifully.
This is not the first time someone attempted to rewrite this great epic, Ramayan, but the way Chitra Banerjee did it, made me a fan of her writing. I developed a lot of interest in Mythology. This review is also going to be the admiration post for the author.
The storyline is the same as of Ramayan all of us heard of - Sita gets married to Ram, goes in the forest for 14 years, Ravan kidnaps her, then the great war happens and Sita is saved from the Lanka. There are no changes in the plot, but the way it is put, the way the author demonstrated the characters, especially Sita is way beyond beautiful. The story in this book revolves around Sita. This book has every detail of Sita's life. Right from her childhood to her days in Ravan’s Lanka. This book does not highlight any segment of the war that happened or the strategical planning that Ram and Laxman did with Vanarsena, but it shows how Sita was dealing with whatever was happening with her in Lanka.
I would say, this book shows the story of courage, love and self-respect. Honestly, This is the first book that made me cry. The language used by Chitra, the author is so powerful yet simple that it touches your emotional chord.
Many things in the story disturbed and angered me because of what was happening with Sita, and how she was being treated and judged. In fact, at some points in the book, I was extremely angry with Ram. Sita was a very strong woman. She fought for her love, for her children, for her sisters, and herself. I could relate the story to the current situation of women in society. I was putting myself at the place of Sita and other women characters of the story and feeling how it was to be a woman then and how it is now. There are enormous differences and still many similarities.
There is a strong sentence about women, which was true then & which is true now.
Was this a woman's predicament, always to be pulled between conflicting loves?
I have a habit of highlighting my favourite lines in the book. While reading this book, I was confused about what to highlight and what to leave. Sita’s every sentence was like a weapon that I can use in my day to day arguments.
In every major incident, the author explained the concept of love so well that I almost got the whole new perspective on this topic. Sita was finding out many things about love from different people.
Such is the seduction of love: It makes you not want to think too much. It makes you unwilling to question the one you love.
While reading, I was scribbling my thoughts between the lines and noting down my learnings on each page. This is the first book in which I have written so much between the lines and I learned infinite things. If I start listing things down, I will probably end up writing so many words.
I loved the way the author has written the love story of Ram and Sita, touching upon each area of relationships such as anger, jealousy, sorrows, vengeance, and desires. These things are usually neglected while jotting down the epic tales because the wars are more important.
The ending of this book is so strong and powerful. This shows the feminist side of Sita and how she wants to be an example for the daughters coming in the next ages. She says ‘ enough is enough’ and takes a bold decision. The decision that many women will fear to take even in today’s time – leaving children and husband behind to find a place where she gets respect.
"May we all be like Sita"
There are so many takeaways from this book but I will mention a few major ones.
Always know that you deserved to be treated the best and know when to say ‘Enough’ and ‘no more’ in any kind of relationship. The sooner the better.
Know your rights better.
Learn to limit your love to someone and save some for yourself, because if given unconditionally, it may leave you the condition where even you can’t help yourself.
These are my personal learnings and I don't expect anyone to agree with me.
Stay tuned for more book reviews.