SHORTLISTED FOR THE WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2018
LONGLISTED FOR THE DYLAN THOMAS PRIZE 2018
SHORTLISTED FOR THE JHALAK PRIZE 2018
Guardian's Best Books of 2017
Daily Telegraph's Best Books of 2017
Observer Best Books of 2017
Financial Times Best Books of 2017
"Meena Kandasamy's vivid, sharp and precise writing makes a triumph of When I Hit You"- Guardian
Seduced by politics, poetry and an enduring dream of building a better world together, the unnamed narrator falls in love with a university professor. Moving with him to a rain-washed coastal town, she swiftly learns that what for her is a bond of love is for him a contract of ownership. As he sets about reducing her to his idealised version of an obedient wife, bullying her and devouring her ambition of being a writer in the process, she attempts to push back - a resistance he resolves to break with violence and rape.
Kandasamy's stateside debut, a finalist for the Women's Prize for Fiction when it was published in the U.K. in 2017, offers a brutal, essential narrative of marital abuse and survival. When the unnamed narrator, a politically active Tamil woman living in present-day southern India, meets her eventual husband, a college lecturer and former guerrilla fighter, she is initially energized by his Marxist politics and idealistic worldview. After the two marry, the husband's theorizing becomes inverted and toxic, as he conjures up intellectual justifications for enforcing extreme social isolation on his wife, and repeatedly beats and rapes her. Kandasamy's novel blends painfully raw scenes of physical and sexual violence with the narrator's vibrant interiority, which includes musings on India's "bachelor politicians," influential men who publicly reject marriage and family in service of their country while taking advantage of women, and her growing realization that narrating her own abuse may help her survive it. She also powerfully addresses the inevitable question of why women stay with their abusers. The answer has to do with hope, and the narrative of a short-lived but devastating marriage is surprisingly hopeful as well. This visceral and sophisticated account is both terrifying and triumphant.
Shocking and brilliant
This book is deeply troubling and triggering, but also brilliant in its honesty and for providing such a gripping and compelling voice for such a brutal story. I read this book in a day and could hardly put it down - there was so much tension and suspense, fear and shock.
I would recommend this book, but it should also carry a warning to readers who could be triggered by descriptions of coercive control and domestic abuse.