Snapshots by Shobha De

51rI5YJCUDL._SX373_BO1,204,203,200_Snapshots by Shobha De is a story about four women who have a reunion after a gap of time. The story is told in flashbacks and narrates the events of an afternoon that the frinds spend together. It results in problems and a death (Noor).

Aparna, (husband Rohit, lover Prem), Reema Chandiramani (now Reena Nath, relationship with her brother-in-law), Surekha (housewife, dominating mother-in-law, has a lesbian relationship with her friend and Dolly), Rashmi (eleven-year-old Pips’ mother, middle name nymphomaniac, he is a bastard, father is a married movie director, Pips Sr who left her for a tidier home), and Noor (has an incestuous relationship with her brother, discovers the hidden microphones for the materials for Swati’s Sisters of the Subcontinent, and commits suicide at the end of the reunion).

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Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

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Like Water for Chocolate  (1989) by Laura Esquivel  is another example of magic realism by a female author. It narrates the experiences of Tita, the youngest daughter of Mama Elena, who falls in love with Pedro but marries him after twenty years, after Rosaura, her sister and his legal wife, dies. The book is divided into twelve chapters, each corresponding to a month of the year and a recipe that was cooked during that month.

Themes: magic realism, love, food and cooking, family (including the relationship between Gertrudis and Tita and Elena’s cruelty), history (Mexican Revolution), and the power of traditions.

Women in the family: Mama Elena; her daughters, Gertrudis, Rosaura, and Tita (real name, Josefita); Nacha, the cook; and Chencha, the maid.

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The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

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The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende is one of the few magic realism novels by a female author. It was Allende’s debut novel, published in 1982. It narrates the lives of four generations of the Trueba family. Clara is the most ‘magical’ character. There are also elements of Marxism both as a form of government as well as in the relations between Esteban Trueba and his tenants. There are also grand descriptions of the decorations in the “the big house on the corner;” the house reflects the relationships as well as upheavals in the family’s social and economic positions.  This novel reminded me of Julia Alvarez‘s In the Time of the Butterflies in Alba’s imprisonments and Maryse Conde‘s Windward Heights (which itself is a retelling of Wuthering Heights) in term sof the descriptions and a multi-generational narrative.

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So Far From God by Ana Castillo

so-far-from-godSo Far From God by Ana Castillo is set in Tome, New Mexico and narrates the story of Sofi, her (on and off) husband, Domingo, and their three daughters, Esperanza, Fe, Caridad, and the youngest, La Loca (who is an epileptic).

Themes: Family, female solidarity, Catholicism, magic realism (visions of hell and character of La Loca), violence against women, business, technology, and identity. An interesting thing is how Castillo uses really long chapter titles; like for Chapter 1, she writes, “An Account of the First Astonishing Occurrence in the Lives of a Woman Named Sofia and Her Four Fated Daughters; and the Equally Astonishing Return of Her Wayward Husband” (19).

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Brick Lane by Monica Ali

51W6004JQMLBrick Lane by Monica Ali, an example of postcolonial immigrant fiction, describes the story of Nazneen and her family. She is born in Bangladesh and moves to Tower Hamlets, London with her older husband, Chanu. Brick Lane is the street at the heart of the Bangladeshi community in London. There are two narrators: Nazneen as a third person narrator and her sister, Hasina through her letters to Nazneen.

Themes: family (both the married family of Chanu and family in Bangladesh); female solidarity for both Nazneen and her sister, Hasina; racism and clash of cultures; food and eating; home; and knowledge and education (as seen in Chanu’s certificates and degrees). The idea of the home, the return to the home, the idea on how to make the new place a home are all central concerns in an immigration novel, and described in detail in Brick Lane. There is also the symbol of ice skating which is a fantasy for Nazneen, means of freedom, and which Nazneen accepts at the end of the text. Religion also plays an important part, along with enterprises (Chanu’s employment in the government and as a cab driver, later his soap business), Nazneen’s work as a seamstress, and later her work as a designer with Razia. Also there is Mrs. Islam’s usury where she charges a 33% interest. Spoiler alert- Chanu returns to Bangladesh alone, to open a soap industry. Nazneen’s lover, Karim is also rumored to have returned to Bangladesh. Hasina also runs away with the cook at her place of employment.

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