Book Review: Black Pepper – Madhu Purushotaman

“… if you do not want it, you cannot be conquered. Don’t lose your spirit or soul even if you lose your life. A valiant death is better than an enslaved life as it destroys you soul too. How you live your life is all that matters. “
an excerpt from the book. 

A visual treat: the book takes you on visual tour through the southern part of India, now the state Kerala in 18th century. The extensive research on the history and the social conditions provide the authenticity and realism to the  novel.
It is a treat to a Historical Fiction lovers.
As the book started I was waiting for the appearance of the male protagonist as is usually expected. But as the story  progressed, without my realization the three protagonists were etched in my mind.  Women protagonists: not one or two but three. Hook, line and sinker, the girls had me with them through-out.
A society where men set the rules for women, where every level of the caste hierarchy, women were oppressed and treated no worse than an inanimate object. Even the people who wanted the change to happen had their hands tied.
I remember a dialogue in a movie where a woman says,  “ I am just a woman trying to live in the men’s world on my terms.”
That is what exactly  ‘Naayi’ , ‘Valli’ and  ‘Gauri’ did, without proclaiming to do so.
The war for the spices, the European powers trying to gain the control over it and the building tension due to internal politics and war; you will feel it happening right around you.
There are few resonating thoughts which are apt even in today’s time,

“You can put only one-tenths of the blame on the perpetrators. Nine-tenths of our destiny is in our hands.”

“…We have the biggest control over what we are.”

No matter the time or era the rules which tried to hold back women from achieving what they want from life, always existed. In the name of caste, religion, society and culture they have always been tried to be held back. And every now and then you find a Naayi , Gauri or Valli trying in their own possible way to break the mold they are tried to put in.
Staying true to the time and situations without over dramatizing or building up an over the top heroic image the story proceeded convincingly.  The pain and loses were all subtle and realistic. The mystery was held intact till the end adding the thrill.
A must read for historical lovers and a must try for any fiction readers.
Every event of the book was visually engraved in my mind as if I had watched a movie. 

Knowing the language Malayalam helped me as I read. A glossary would be helpful for a reader who is new to the language. Many explanations from the book can be included in the glossaries, hence adding more pace to the flow.   

A good read! A good treat! 


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