Book Review

Review: The Aunt Who Wouldn’t Die by Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay

This short story was sweet, snappy and funny and I really enjoyed it.

Title: The Aunt Who Wouldn’t Die

Author: Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay

Pages: 79

Publication Date: 11th July 2019 (first published in 1993)

Publisher: John Murray Press

Somlata marries into a noble, but increasingly poor family, whose men have never worked a day in their lives. She is terrorised by the matriarch, Great Aunt Pishima, and even more so when she discovers Pishima’s dead body and her ghost begins to haunt Somlata.

The ghost of Pishima demands that Somlata takes and hides her jewellery box, before giving one piece of bad advice after another, potentially jeopardising the fortunes of the family.

It is then up to Somlata to find the best solution.

For me, this story worked on a variety of levels. First, it shows the change in a society’s attitude towards women over three generations, from the starved widow, to the background entrepreneur, to the young woman riding a scooter and shunning marriage.

Second, it was hard to tell whether the story criticised the role that women had to take in pushing for the success of the family, or lauded it. Certainly each time Pishima spoke, it was like a bad spirit trying to lead Somlata astray from her wifely duty. Yet in many ways the story was quite feminist, particularly when Boshan’s voice appeared.

Third, the humour was quiet and wry – like a Bengali Kafka, but wrapped up in a culture that is fascinated by rebirth and reincarnation.

Overall, it was quite different to something that I would normally read and I really enjoyed it.

4 stars!

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley and John Murray in exchange for an honest review – my opinions are my own.

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