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Water: A Novel by Bapsi Sidhwa
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Water: A Novel

by Bapsi Sidhwa

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Showing 5 of 5
3.5 stars - A sad, very moving story about a child widow in India during the 1930s; I certainly want to see the movie now! ( )
  SabinaE | Jan 23, 2016 |
I was fascinated by this novel. The characters are all so real and so heartbreaking. As a mother of a young daughter, I couldn't help but put myself in the role of parent to Chuyia and try to imagine what I would do if my child was taken to live in isolation from not only myself but the rest of society. I have not seen the movie, but reading the book has made me eager to. ( )
  Mrs.Scholey | Feb 7, 2011 |
When Deepa Mehta’s third brilliant film about women on the Indian subcontinent, Water, was due to be released in the US, Sidhwa was asked to write a novel version of the film. She did so, and the result is this book. Turnabout was fair play, as Mehta's second film, Earth, was based on the Sidhwa novel, Cracking India.

It’s colonial India, and Gandhi’s rise to power has begun. A six-year-old Indian girl, Chuyia, is betrothed to a man in his 40's. After the wedding celebration, Chuyia returns home. She is expected to join her husband when she reaches the age of childbearing, however when she is only eight, her husband – whom she has met only once -- dies. A wife is a member of her husband’s household, and yet Chuyia can never be welcomed there. As a widow, she is believed to be a dangerous polluter of his home, having caused her husband’s death. She must be taken far away and abandoned in a special ashram, a house of widows.

Chuyia’s new life is as a child among aging widows, outcasts from society who must beg for their food with shorn heads. Many of them came to the ashram as children, and have known little else in life. But Chuyia has always been a fighter, and her stubborn resistance to ancient superstitions adds a bright spot of life to the dreary existence of these women. Chief among her widowed protectors is Kalyani, a young woman who is allowed to keep her hair so that the mistress of the ashram can rent her out as a prostitute to local men of means. Through Chuyia, Kalyani meets the young nobleman Narayan, and against all the rules of tradition, they fall in love. But Narayan doesn’t know of Kalyani’s shameful late-night forays, and Chuyia’s youthful innocence may soon make her equally vulnerable to misuse by the mistress of the ashram.

In the background, the influence of India’s British colonial masters and Gandhi’s assault on their rule is a constant. As the Mahatma’s historic train approaches their village, the characters’ dangerous choices come face to face with the realities and hopes of their times.

As a fan of both Mehta and Sidhwa, and of the movie Water, I couldn’t wait to read the novel. It was everything I’d hoped for: a retelling of a fine tale and a well-written novel. Like most books compared to movies, it was able to provide more cultural background information and deeper interior motivation than a film is able to do. It's not better than the film, which is truly outstanding within its genre, nor is it equal to Sidhwa's masterpieces, but it is a great read and won't disappoint anyone -- unless they are comparing it to the movie. ( )
  kambrogi | Oct 9, 2009 |
Having seen the film version of Water last year, I was eager to read the novel. It takes place in the 1930s in India. Chuyia, age six, is married to a man in his forties. Per custom, she is allowed to remain at home until she reaches puberty. However, two years later, her husband falls ill with typhoid, and since it is a wife's duty to be by a dying husband's side, her father takes her to the in-laws' home. When her husband dies, Chuyia is sent to a widows' ashram where she will spend the rest of her life because widows--especially young widows--are a danger to society. The rest of the novel edtails her adjustment to her new life, her relationships with the other widows, and her contact with the outside world for which she yearns.

The story is a striking one, However, the writing, I felt, left something to be desired. ( )
1 vote Cariola | Jun 26, 2009 |
The renowned author Bapsi Sidhwa and the equally renowned filmmaker Deepa Mehta share a unique artistic relationship: Mehta adapted Sidhwa's novel Cracking India for her brilliant film Earth, and here, Sidhwa adapts Mehta's controversial film to the printed page. ( )
  vsandham | Dec 9, 2006 |
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In 1938, eight-year-old widow Chuyia is expected to live out a life of penance, but instead becomes a catalyst for change in the lives of widows.

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