Modern, Westernized Sikh, Nikki, accepts a part-time job teaching creative writing to widows and other women at a large Sikh Temple in a predominately Sikh/Punjabi area of London. The classes are successful, but not in the anticipated ways.
What I Loved
I was a little bit worried that this would turn in to 50 Shades of Saris or something, but it didn’t! Whew! When the ladies of the writing class are inspired by a classmate’s deeply sensual and rather erotic story, they begin writing their own. Understandably, this causes conflict in a very traditional, very conservative, religious, community. Nikki, like all young feisty heroines, is both naive and inspiring, sits back and lets it all happen while trying to understand the many secrets these widows–these “unseen” women, are keeping.
By telling erotic [but mostly profanity-free] fantasy stories the ladies tackle a taboo. Through this, they become empowered (and few marriages get really improved!) Personal growth, friendships, and new ideas help strong women become more than “just” widows, wives and mothers. They become fully enfranchised women in their community.
What I Wasn’t So Sold On
I thought the boyfriend story and the ending were a bit too contrived. While the women certainly grew in self-esteem and forged closer ties, I found it unlikely that so much could happen so fast in terms of what was done in their community.
My complaint is a small thing, though.
Photo credit: Alamy
By the women using sexy stories to discover their needs and learn to articulate them, I was reminded of some of the early women’s liberation and consciousness-raising sessions for women in the late 1960s in America. Mostly I was reminded of the embarrassing, but often empowering sessions in which women were given a mirror and asked to look at their genitalia–something many women, even mothers, did not often know the correct terms for, let alone their real function. Women, many of whom like the women in the novel, knew sex only as ‘duty’ to their husband, were introduced to the previously shamed idea of women being capable of feeling ‘pleasure’ in sex and in being deserving of expressing their desires and even leading their husbands in this regard.
As embarrassed as women in either the 1960s scenario or in the novel may have been, they gained independence, respect, and stature through such exercises. For the widows in the story or for the 60s women, being HEARD, being taken seriously, being seen and treated as a competent ADULT, was life-changing.
Thanks to blogger, Good Books Guide, for bringing my attention to this book!