I have just posted my review on Goodreads, and I am somewhat stunned by the very mixed reviews on this book. I think my review – being somewhere in the middle, probably represents my view that there is some value in the book. It was just very difficult to engage with it.
The Lost Homestead: My Family, Partition and the Punjab by Marina Wheeler
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I approached this book with some interest, knowing very little about India’s more recent history. In fact, it would be fair to say that my knowledge is pretty limited to the uprising that occurred in 1857. As to what happened afterwards, at best what I know is random, fairly sketchy. I was therefore hoping that I would come away from this book knowing more than what I did before I started it. To be fair, I have learnt some details of Indian/Pakistani history that I didn’t previously know. Unfortunately, that is the best that I can say about this book.
For me, the bottom line, is that this book lacked heart. Both the author, and the woman she predominantly focusses on – her mother Dip (pronounced Deep), seem to be hidden behind an intangible – and impenetrable – barrier. They both held back so much of themselves that it was actually hard to care about them.
To an extent I can understand why that is. Both women are so used to trying to protect themselves and their families that it is unsurprising that they have put up walls. What I didn’t realise before I started reading, is that the author is the ex-wife of a British Prime Minister, well-used to having her private life paraded across the pages of the press, and there are some things she would no doubt prefer to keep herself. However, in my view, her reticence to engage emotionally with her writing – with the reader – means that her story suffers.
Much like a legal document, there is far too much setting out of what happened, when what I was aching for was more of the emotional reaction to the devastation of the events going on around them. Despite the recitation of important and historical events, I found the writing challenging to read because it was, and I hate to say this, a trifle dull.
I wish that I had liked this book more than what I did. There was an opportunity to really explore some of the more devastating aspects of the history, especially the impact that they had on women. But instead, we get a simple statement – ‘women experienced a particular trauma.’ I also found myself getting a trifle would up by her description of the events of 1857 as a ‘rebellion’, whereas I preferred to think of it as an ‘uprising’. This got me thinking of the meaning of the words we use, and whether our choice to use a particular word matters. So clearly, there were some aspects of the book that generated thought. However, not enough to warrant the price of the book. I can almost guarantee that I will recall little of this book 12 months from now, which as those who read my reviews know, means that this is not a book I would recommend.
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