Wednesday, 17 July 2019

The Aunt Who Wouldn't Die by Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay

The Aunt Who Wouldn't Die by Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay
First published in Bengali as Goynar Baksho by Ananda Publishers in India in 1993. English language translation by Arunava Sinha published in India by BEE Books in 2017 and republished in the UK by John Murray on the 11th July 2019.

2019 New Release Challenge read and one of my 2019 COYER Summer Hunt reads

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At eighteen, Somlata married into the Mitras: a once noble Bengali household whose descendants have taken to pawning off the family gold to keep up appearances.

When Pishima, the embittered matriarch, dies, Somlata is the first to discover her aunt-in-law's body - and her sharp-tongued ghost.

First demanding that Somlata hide her gold from the family's prying hands, Pishima's ghost continues to wreak havoc on the Mitras. Secrets spilt, cooking spoilt, Somlata finds herself at the centre of the chaos. And as the family teeter on the brink of bankruptcy, it looks like it's up to her to fix it.

The Aunt Who Wouldn't Die is a frenetic, funny and fresh novel about three generations of Mitra women, a jewellery box, and the rickety family they hold together.

The Aunt Who Wouldn't Die is an entertaining Indian novel which shows how women's lives and expectations have totally changed within three generations. I loved the three main characters - bitter widow Pishima, determined entrepreneur Somlata, and carefree teenager Boshon. Each of the two older women's attitudes are shaped as much by the situations in which they find themselves as by their own personalities. I was dismayed at how restricted Pishima's life had been. Married at seven and widowed at twelve, social conventions then had her effectively shut away for the rest of her life, before her life had even really begun. Her anger and bitterness at the world is so very understandable and I appreciated how Mukhopadhyay portrayed this without making her a caricature.

I was surprised at how well Mukhopadhyay understood these women, being a male author himself. The novel's structure is split into four sections, alternating between Somlata and Boshon and it wasn't until the third section that it suddenly dawned on me how the women were connected to each other. I'm not sure if I had missed clues earlier on? A feminist story at heart I think, The Aunt Who Wouldn't Die is rich with detail. It crosses genres but is ultimately a lovely lively heart warming tale which wonderfully evokes life in this singular Bengali family.

Etsy Find!
by Desirable Vintage in
Glasgow, Scotland

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Books by Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay / Novellas / Books from India


  1. I like the concept. It sounds inventive and really interesting.

  2. This sounds great! I love reading books taking place in another culture or country.

    1. The Aunt will probably be a perfect read for you :-)