After reading Shantaram, I became more intrigued with Indian culture and way of life. Still, I wasn’t so fast in picking up another book from which I could learn more. Then I was offered the chance to review The Last Suttee and, boy did it provide me with new information about the country.
The Last Suttee by Madhu Bazaz Wangu focuses on Kumud Kuthiyala as she travels back to Neela Nagar, the hometown she vowed she would never return to again. As a nine-year-old, Kumud witnessed her aunt commit the suttee ritual, where she immolated herself on the burning pyre of her dead husband. Years later, a phone call informs Kumud that a suttee of a sixteen-year-old is inevitable, resulting in a trip back to the town she hates so much.
This was a totally new world for me. I know very little about India (besides the European version of its food) and found the information about the suttee fascinating. I’ve mentioned many times before how I love books that I can learn from and this was certainly one. This was also one of few books I actually read the introduction for and, knowing where the author has come from with this topic and the amount of research she put into it, I feel comfortable in accepting the ritual as fact.
As deep as the ancient tradition of suttee is, it wasn’t the only thing that brought meaning to the book. The overall theme of the story was no doubt patriarchy versus matriarchy, brought to light in a small town where men ultimately ruled and the women were split between those wanting to rebel and those happy to continue the same way. This theme was made stronger by the presence of strong female characters. They were extremely inspiring as they fought to live life on their terms and influence those around them. These women might have been based in a small town in India, but their determination and struggles against patriarchy could have placed them anywhere in the world.
However, while I enjoyed the characters and overall story, the book was lacking the suspense I originally thought it would have. I was able to read The Last Suttee at a leisurely pace and reached for it often, but it didn’t have me wanting more. I wasn’t dying to find out what happens next.
Overall, it is a very interesting story and I found it rather unique in the story it tells. If you are looking for a female empowerment book that is easy to read, I recommend this wholeheartedly.
I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.