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Tomb Of Sand Wins The Booker 2022: Written By A Woman In Hindi & Translated By A Woman

Written by Geetanjali Shree in Hindi as Ret Samadhi and translated into English by Daisy Rockwell, Tomb of Sand is about a woman’s coming into her own at the age of – hold your breath - 80!

How do I write a review of a book that encompasses so much in its pages? Where do I begin? What do I talk about? With lines like ‘The world is in dire need of literature because literature is a source of hope and life’, Geetanjali Shree’s Tomb of Sand may well be talking about itself.

When I finished reading Tomb of Sand, I wanted to re-read it all over again. All because of its exquisite prose, loveable characters, and a theme that transcends time and age – friendship.

Written by Geetanjali Shree in Hindi as Ret Samadhi and translated into English by Daisy Rockwell, the book is about a woman’s coming into her own at the age of – hold your breath – 80! Remember all those posts about there being no age limit to owning your life and identity? Well, this widowed woman is a classic example of that. Women empowerment, check!

Add to that, her rebellious modern-thinking daughter who reminded me of myself even from the short mention in the blurb. This promised to be a double dose of women empowerment. Plus Tomb of Sand is currently a shortlisted contender for the 2022 Booker.

So what is Tomb of Sand about?

Quoting from the blurb: An eighty-year-old woman slips into a deep depression at the death of her husband, then resurfaces to gain a new lease on life. Her determination to fly in the face of convention – including striking up a friendship with a hijra (trans) woman – confuses her bohemian daughter, who is used to thinking of herself as the more ‘modern’ of the two.

At the older woman’s insistence they travel back to Pakistan, simultaneously confronting the unresolved trauma of her teenage experiences of Partition, and re-evaluating what it means to be a mother, a daughter, a woman, a feminist.

Rather than respond to tragedy with seriousness, Geetanjali Shree’s playful tone and exuberant wordplay results in a book that is engaging, funny, and utterly original, at the same time as being an urgent and timely protest against the destructive impact of borders and boundaries, whether between religions, countries, or genders.

Did I want to read Tomb of Sand? Hell, YEAH!

But now that I am done reading the book I am confused as to what to talk about. Hence, the question above – What do I talk about? Or, rather where do I even begin?

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Should I talk about the themes that are covered in the book? Partition. Love. Feminism. Modern Life. Ancient History. Religion.

Or should I tell you that it’s a simple enough story that can be described in one line, and yet continues for endless pages that talk about everything and nothing, and you wonder at the exquisite words and phrases, even as you get lost in them?

Ret Samaadhi I could tell you my personal connection to the book and how this book found me instead of the other way round, or how inspiring and impressive it is that this is the first Hindi translation to be nominated for the Booker Prize. (By the time I had finished reading the book, it had entered the shortlist. And now it has WON!)

Or how, for the first two hundred pages, I couldn’t even make head or tail of what was happening in the book, or why? Even though I was tempted to add the book to the DNF list, I didn’t, and you shouldn’t either.

Should I, inspired by the book itself, write long prose that may seem disconnected and random at first until you suddenly see how relevant and deep the connection is?

Or should I talk about the writing that made me smile, think, cry, muse, wonder, gape, nod, and even gave me a mighty wordy hangover – what else can explain the writing style in this review?!

Thus it has been said that if you create lovely scenes and spread art and music all around the atmosphere, hostility and friction will fall away like crumbled lime-chalk powder. In its place, love will flow everywhere, soft and sweet.

Or this – Women are stories in themselves, full of stirrings and whisperings that float on the wind, that bend with each blade of grass.

Exquisite, deep writing

I have to admit though, it isn’t an easy read. Not because of the writing – although that too, but not in the way you think. The writing is deep and profound and therefore needs time to be appreciated, peppered with glowing sentences like glittering gems, or the most melodious musical notes you’ve heard ever. Translated by Daisy Rockwell, the book retains its Hindi essence – or rather, dhwani, in good measure. I should say ‘resonance’ because this is after all the English translation.

Tomb of Sand In the past, books without a conventional story or plot like Anita Nair’s Eating Wasps have left me struggling; even though I did enjoy it while I was reading it, I was left me wondering as to what happened to the protagonist. But isn’t that what good writing is about? To get you invested in the characters and then makes you question yourself in a way that you arrive at your own answers.

Tomb of Sand is very much like that. Thankfully, for readers like me who like closure, the story doesn’t leave you hanging but the questions come in soon enough. Like the one question that I kept asking throughout – who is the narrator?

I ask Geetanjali Shree. She laughs and says, “It isn’t an easy read.” (Yes, I met her!)

That for you, dear reader of this review who will soon pick up this book too, is a one-line review for you. From the author herself. Me, I have no idea what to say about the book. Except, maybe two words: Read it.

So if someone asks you, “Do you want to read this book?” let the answer be a resounding “Hell, YEAH!”

Want a copy of this book?

If you’d like to pick up Tomb of Sand written by Geetanjali Shree and translated from the original Hindi Ret Samadhi by Daisy Rockwell, use our affiliate links at Amazon Indiaand at Amazon US.

Women’s Web gets a small share of every purchase you make through these links, and every little helps us continue bringing you the reads you love!

Image source: By R schein – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, and book cover Amazon

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About the Author

Piyusha Vir

Piyusha Vir is a writer, artist, a CELTA-certified English Language trainer, and a Creative Writing Coach. She was awarded the Top 5 position in the Orange Flower Awards 2018 for the category of Writing read more...

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