As a fictional novel that dwells on topics of family, politics and health, Small Days and Nights tells the story of Grace, an Indian-Italian woman whose life takes an unexpected turn. When news of her mother’s demise reaches her in US, she makes her way to her childhood home in Pondicherry to perform the last rites. Grappling with a failed marriage, Grace must also come to terms with the fact that for a large chunk of her life, her parents hid the truth about her having a sister.
Surprisingly enough, reading this book felt akin to what the title suggests. Grace’s story is shared with us in such a fleeting manner that the many scenes don’t even settle in our minds before we are whisked off to another time, another place. The back and forth shuffling took away from my enjoyment of the book. Usually, I like novels that don’t follow a chronological pattern of storytelling, but I felt that the premise of the novel and the author’s writing style did not gel well with this flashback style narrative.
That is not to say that the book isn’t well written. Tishani Doshi clearly has a very good grasp of the language and her lyrical writing brings out the beauty in the environment as well as human nature. The imageries she puts together, her aesthetically drawn out sentences – they all made me aspire to be a better writer. It’s just that while reading this book, I felt like some kind of continuity in the scenes would’ve helped me digest the story much better.
Grace is someone whose need for affiliation surfaces in times of rare social occasions. Even though she is often surrounded by people like her neighbors and her mother’s friends, you come to understand how lonely she truly feels. Because Grace finds herself wanting to take care of her sister, Lucia, we get to read about a character having Down Syndrome. I feel that the author strikes a good balance between exploring the portrayal of this disorder in a respectful, sensitive manner while also being realistic. Even though Grace grows attached to her sister, there are moments when she is frustrated by her inability to get through to Lucia.
I liked how we are transported to a couple of different locations like Italy and Paramankeni as we follow various phases of Grace’s life. It helped me form an idea about the kind of person she would be.
Overall, this book definitely had its enjoyable parts and a lot of the appeal, for me, was in the writing. But I didn’t like it as much as I’d hoped to. If you feel like you’d be interested in the plot, you should give it a try.
★ ★ ★
Thank you Bloomsbury India for sending me a copy of this book in exchange of an honest review.