I am just a girl who loves reading and talking about books
How much would you sacrifice to save your family?
1929. When a passionate love affair threatens to leave Lucy in disgrace, she chooses a respectable marriage over a life of shame. With her husband, coffee plantation owner James, she travels to her new home in India, leaving her troubled past behind her.
Everything in India is new to Lucy, from the jewel-coloured fabrics to the exotic spices. When her path crosses that of Gowri, a young woman who tends the temple on the plantation’s edge, Lucy is curious to find out more about her, and the events that lead her to live in isolation from her family…
Now. With her career in shatters and her heart broken by the man she thought was her future, Kayva flees from bustling Mumbai to her hometown. A crumbling temple has been discovered in a village nearby, along with letters detailing its tragic history – desperate pleas from a young woman called Gowri.
As Kavya learns of Gowri and Lucy’s painful story, she begins to understand the terrible sacrifices that were made and the decision the two women took that changed their lives forever. Can the secrets of the past help Kavya to rebuild her life?
I started reading A Daughter’s Courage by Renita D’ Silva on Tuesday morning before work. I read a few more chapters at lunch time and then a few more before bedtime. At 2:00am, I was woken up by the sound of dogs barking and couldn’t sleep again. So I decided to read a few more chapters and that is how I ended up staying up until 4:30am on a work night until I finished this book. It’s the kind of book that draws you in slowly such that when you aren’t reading it, you are thinking about it. It haunts you and occupies your thoughts. I thought about the characters throughout the day and even now that I have finished reading the book, I am still thinking about it.
The setting was magical. Anyone who knows me knows that I like books set in India. This country has such a rich culture and I have always been curious about it and its people. One thing that you need to know about Renita D’Silva is that she has a way with words. She can paint a picture with her words. She described India in a way that I have never read before. Everything came alive from the scents, sounds and the people. She even describes language in a way that gives it life. I have never heard of Kandhala but she made it hear it. I could see the characters and hear them. And India, my goodness. The bad and the good were captured in this book. The lush greenery , wild animals with elephants roaming the streets and tigers prowling the jungles, it felt magical.
However, not everything is magical and beautiful at the setting. There are a lot of ugly things going on. The story begins with Gowri, a young Indian girl full of dreams. She was smart, one of the best performing students at her school. Gowri had dreams of becoming a teacher. Her life drastically changed when a statute of a goddess was discovered in her father’s land. Gowri ends up being dedicated to the goddess. She lives in seclusion near the temple built for the goddess and spends her days serving the goddess and the priest at the temple. What is even worse, she has to serve the man who owns the land in which the goddess was found. The landlord buys Gowri and she becomes his property. He sleeps with her, gives her to his friends for their entertainment and pays her a sum of money which she gives her parents. At fourteen, Gowri is now a prostitute.
The other main character is an English lady, Lucy who ends up in India after marrying her new husband. Lucy has her own struggles but nothing compares to the havoc brought into her life after meeting Gowri. There are other two characters who are also narrators. Sue, an English woman who is recently widowed and Kayla, an Indian woman who is going through a difficult period. Other minor characters include Kayla’s mother and grandmother.
The story is narrated through the alternating POVs with Gowri and Lucy as the main characters. Gowri’s narrations are written as letters to the goddess. There are few chapters by Sue and Kayla. In addition, there are different timelines; Sue and Kayla are in the now. Gowri begins her narrations in 1928 and so did Lucy although at some point, alternating chapters had narrations of Gowri in 1928 and Lucy in 1929. All these elements are masterfully interwoven to create the masterpiece that this book is.
There are a number of heavy themes in the book including child prostitution and grief. Religion is also a theme and in this case, it is used to explain the circumstances around Gowri. The author did a fantastic job in explaining this religion. It is something unusual and hence not easy to understand. However, we don’t have to understand it. Instead, we just need to understand the impact that it had on the characters. We get to experience it through Gowri and in this way, what may otherwise seem ridiculous starts to make sense.
There is a lot that I can say about this beautiful story and the women at the heart of it. All the MCs were female hence making it even more special. They covered so many different aspects of a woman’s life such as mother and daughter relationships (the complicated kind), husband and wife, friendships between women. I feel like it was a relatable although quite emotional read. A Daughter’s Courage by Renita D’Silva is the kind of book that I recommend to everyone. I wish my book-club could read it so that we can discuss the beauty of this book. I just want everyone to experience the book especially all women.