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The Diary Of A Reluctant Feminist [Book Review + Giveaway]

Posted: April 10, 2014

The Diary Of A Reluctant Feminist is a darkly humorous book about the Great Indian Family’s fight to save a daughter’s marriage.

Can the end of a marriage ever be funny? Is divorce good for a few laughs? How about the Great Indian Family and its well laid plans for its daughters which usually go along the degree-marriage-two-kids road? (Well, the degree if you live in urban India and belong to the ‘middle class’ or above).

If none of those things sound remotely funny, that only means more credit to first time author Bhavna Bhavna who brings them all together in The Diary Of A Reluctant Feminist and gives us many laughs in the process; although, by the end of the book, I found my laughter morphing from the ha ha hee hee sort of big, uncomplicated laugh to a more subdued, guilty snicker.

Yes, reading a book about a woman who spends her life doing what every good girl is supposed to do, and then finds out that socially sanctioned goodness has very little to do with happiness, will do that to you.

Without giving away too much of the plot, let me just say that this is the story of a woman who wants to get a divorce, (and so does her husband) – which is when she realises that her own beloved family will do just about anything to prevent her getting a divorce and ‘bringing shame to the family.’

Bhavna brings much dark humour to the table, and the protagonist’s upbringing in a large Punjabi joint family, her authoritarian grandmother and long-suffering aunts and uncles, girls-school-and-college life, marriage and the end of it are all presented with wit and a sort of staccato summing up of each stage of life. Yes, there is a little too much of Bollywood about the Punjabi family, and some of the cliches could have been edited out. By the end of the novel, the bullet-point summaries also begin to pall a little, like a Power Point presentation that is going on just a little too long.

Despite the humour, Bhavna managed to make me care for her gutless protagonist. (Is she also the author? I was never very clear, notwithstanding the mandatory disclaimer at the beginning). A woman who has left the biggest decisions of her life largely to other people, she comes into her own finally only when it comes to the divorce, and even there, it is as a ‘reluctant’ feminist. It is almost as if the utter failure of the marriage was the only thing that could have pushed her to realise that, hey, a woman taking her own decisions is not such a bad thing after all!

The Diary Of A Reluctant Feminist can be seen as one kind of book, but also entirely another. The easily digestible style with helpful summing up of every chapter means it is a sort of ‘time pass’ read. The pink cover screams chick-lit.

However, I also found it a telling commentary on what being a daughter can mean, even in a benign sort of Indian family – perhaps not too far from the kind of family that a Queen portrays. Beneath the humour lie some uncomfortable truths, and while the heroine, as a reluctant feminist, does not shout them out, they are nonetheless audible. In one sense then, it is a cautionary tale that family does not always know best.

If you’d like to pick up The Diary Of A Reluctant Feminist, you can do it through our affiliate links at Flipkart or Amazon India

And now for a giveaway! 

Answer this question, and one lucky winner gets a copy of The Reluctant Feminist.

“When well-laid plans in life go awry, what is the best thing to do?”

Leave your answer as a comment below, and by 15th April, we’ll pick one winner to get a copy of this book!


Congratulations, R’s Mom! Your 10-point plan to combat life’s best laid plans going awry is chosen as the best comment, and we’ll get in touch with you soon to send you your copy of The Reluctant Feminist!

Founder & Chief Editor of Women's Web, Aparna believes in the power of ideas

Learn More

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  1. when well paid plans go awry, first do not panic. Relax and try and formulate a plan B. Better still, and what I do most of time, just take the challenge as it comes and act accordingly. In such situation, it is also essential that you take your family member in confidence, in case something goes wrong. Last but not the least, be optimistic and even if things do not work out, always remember that there’s always dawn after the dark night. 🙂

  2. Well the realization that a well laid plan need not always work is a big step towards letting go and taking a breather. Then start making new plans because to plan is human, it not always working is divine. I write at travellingnoodles.blogspot.in

  3. 1. Curse everyone and everything around you
    2. Write a letter to the local government body holding them responsible for all the woes and worries and wrongs in your life
    3. Dont forget to post that letter
    4. Now look around you and see who is willing to hear your sob story
    5. Bore that person as much as the person is willing to hear
    6. Pick up the phone and talk to your mother
    7. Take a deep breath and order the largest possible chocolate cake and ice cream available in the best shop in town
    8. Dig in and enjoy
    9. Think of alternatives while eating that cake and ice cream
    10. Get back to the usual life after getting an alternative for the best laid plans

    PS – Been there, done that 🙂

  4. Dipanwita Koley -

    As they say ‘when life gives you lemon make a lemonade out of it’ .So make the best use of the situation,Be optimistic,face the challenge head on and never give-up.’Life is beautiful’!

  5. The age old Murphy’s Law states -Anything that can go wrong will go wrong!

    So, the best thing I do is read my favourite poem and lift myself up.

    Here is an extract:
    When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
    When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
    When the funds are low and the debts are high,
    And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
    When care is pressing you down a bit-
    Rest if you must, but don’t you quit

    Introspection is good but cannot change the situation. It can only help us to face life in a better way next time!

  6. When best laid plans go awry, only that person knows what is the best thing to do. It is too personal and differs from person to person. 99% of the time the brain will not accept any advice to get over it. The heart will pick at the wounds and make it bleed. So I personally see no point in saying what one must do. But certainly there is something others can do if they get a hint their friend is even slightly upset and take the time to be sweet and invite confidences maturely and help them get distracted initially in something else they are passionate about and then help them face and accept their situation. This will help someone to take the lonely road of being truly over some loss in expectation on a personal and honest scale. Some people would brush it off, some need distance and time, some need attention but all need hope and I wish everyone spends at least two minutes voicing their support for even a very distant friend who is going through a rough patch.

  7. I thought about “When well paid plans in life go awry, what is the best thing to do?”, many things came in my mind from anger to frustration, from trying again to accept the failure. However. after reasoning out with each thought, I could come up with one solution which has worked most of the times. Check it out and let me know if you agree with the same.


  8. Cry (your heart out, just for a little while); Dry (your tears) and Try (harder than ever to make better plans and succeed at them!)

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