When I Hit You: Or, a Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife

Meena Kandasamy. Europa, $17 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-60945-599-6
Kandasamy’s stateside debut, a finalist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction when it was published in the U.K. in 2017, offers a brutal, essential narrative of marital abuse and survival. When the unnamed narrator, a politically active Tamil woman living in present-day southern India, meets her eventual husband, a college lecturer and former guerrilla fighter, she is initially energized by his Marxist politics and idealistic worldview. After the two marry, the husband’s theorizing becomes inverted and toxic, as he conjures up intellectual justifications for enforcing extreme social isolation on his wife, and repeatedly beats and rapes her. Kandasamy’s novel blends painfully raw scenes of physical and sexual violence with the narrator’s vibrant interiority, which includes musings on India’s “bachelor politicians,” influential men who publicly reject marriage and family in service of their country while taking advantage of women, and her growing realization that narrating her own abuse may help her survive it. She also powerfully addresses the inevitable question of why women stay with their abusers. The answer has to do with hope, and the narrative of a short-lived but devastating marriage is surprisingly hopeful as well. This visceral and sophisticated account is both terrifying and triumphant. (Mar.)
Reviewed on : 01/07/2020
Release date: 03/01/2020
Genre: Fiction
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