‘An Indian household can no more be governed peacefully without dignity and prestige, than an Indian Empire’ The Complete Indian Housekeeper and Cook, Flora Annie Steel & Grace Gardiner
Magda is a former scientist with a bad temper and a sharp tongue, living alone in a huge house by the sea. Confined to a wheelchair, her once spotless home crumbling around her, she gets through carers at a rate of knots.
Until Susheela arrives, bursting through the doors of Magda’s house, carrying life with her: grief for her mother’s recent death; worry for her father; longing for a beautiful and troubled young man.
The two women strike up an unlikely friendship: Magda’s old-fashioned, no-nonsense attitude turns out to be an unexpected source of strength for Susheela; and Susheela’s Bengali heritage brings back memories of Magda’s childhood in colonial India and resurrects the tragic figure of her mother, Evelyn, and her struggle to fit within the suffocating structure of the Raj’s ruling class.
But as Magda digs deeper into her past, she unlocks a shocking legacy of blood that threatens to destroy the careful order she has imposed on her life – and that might just be the key to give the three women, Evelyn, Magda and Susheela, a place they can finally call home.
Dignity is available now in ebook and hardback. You can purchase your copy using the link below.
Dignity is a beautifully written, emotion book that I know will stay with me for a long time. As the name suggests it explores the concept and meaning of the word dignity in two different times and places. It was very poignant to see how dignity and the loss of it can affect people.
The story centers around three women, elderly Magda, her career Susheela and Susheela’s mother Evelyn who travels to India to get married but ends up very unhappy when it doesn’t fulfill her expectations. Their stories are told in alternate chapters and while I did find all of them interesting I didn’t perhaps enjoy Evelyn’s story as much as it was exceptionally sad. I did enjoy watching Magda and Susheela’s relationship develop throughout the book. It was wonderful to watch them get close and be a comfort to each other.
The descriptions in this book are very vivid and helps the reader to picture the setting as if they are actually there experiencing everything first hand. This is especially true of the descriptions of colonial India, which has always held a lot of intrigue for me anyway. I felt I could see all the colours, feel the sun and even smell the spices in some cases.
This book is very enthralling read and I felt utterly absorbed into the women’s lives as I read. I quickly warmed to all of the woman and felt great sympathy for them. I felt involved in their lives, feeling everything that they were feeling meaning I was often in tears whilst reading. I always think it takes great skill for a writer to make you feel so strongly about a character that you actually cry whilst reading their story.
Huge thanks to Tracy Fenton for inviting me onto the blog tour and to Gigi from W&N books for my copy of this book which I received in exchange for an honest review.
About The Author:
ALYS CONRAN’s first novel PIGEON won the Wales Book of the Year Award 2017, the Rhys Davies Trust Fiction Award, The Wales Arts Review People’s Choice Award, was shortlisted for the International Dylan Thomas Prize and longlisted for the Author’s Choice First Novel Award. Her short fiction has been placed in the Bristol Short Story Prize and the Manchester Fiction Prize. She also publishes poetry, short stories, creative non-fiction, creative essays and literary translations.
Originally from north Wales, she spent several years in Edinburgh and Barcelona before returning to the area to live and write. She speaks Welsh and English as first languages, and also speaks Spanish and Catalan. She has worked as a youth worker, teacher, and in community arts and is now Lecturer in Creative Writing at Bangor. Her late father, also a writer, was born in Kharagpur, Bengal.