A Spoiler Free Review
Hangwoman (originally Aarachar – ആരാച്ചാർ in Malayalam) is a book written by K. R. Meera and translated phenomenally by J Devika. This is the second book I have read by an author from Kerala with a story set in Kolkata and I have included it as a part of a personal Literary Project of mine called Project India.
There is something about death that arouses curiosity within all of us. Hangwoman gives us a glimpse into the world of those people who provide justice by hanging the guilty. This is a book that talks about capital punishment, the weight of a family’s legacy and finding one’s own path through everything that the world puts in front of them.
The Grddha Mullicks has been in Kolkata before the formation of Bharat being executioners for over two thousand years. They have seen the country as no one else has. The story is about the daughter of Phanibhushan Grddha Mullick who hanged four hundred and fifty-one convicts.
This is a story about the twenty-two year old Chetna who is thrown into chaos from the moment she was appointed as an official Hangwoman by starring in her TV show, fighting the patriarchy that surrounds her, the pressure of a manipulative lover and moreover it is her journey of growth while carrying the weight of her entire lineage to be the only woman to become a Hangwoman in the world in a job that was meant only for men.
Reading the book I didn’t just go on a journey with Chetna, I witnessed stories of all the famous hangmen in the Grddha Mullick family which makes the book special. These interconnected stories of uncountable executioners over history shapes out the expectations that Chetna carries.
This is an eye-opener and an opportunity to delve into the lives of women who have to make a living in a man’s world. Not just in the present day, this book makes you think about the absence of women in history.
The book is intense and horrifying in its own might weaving through ironies of life, politics and social evils. This book also criticises modern journalism, social obligations, unfair rules propagated in the name of traditions which suppress the growth of women and moreover how society deliberately makes it hard for women to grow. The society is proud of having the first woman as a hangman but it is the same people who hate the fact that a woman is doing a job that is meant for men and a bring out the questions on morality and ethics of the job.
I really loved the portrayal of all the characters and in the book each with their flair, their flaws and things that make them special. What stands out is the setting of Kolkata that is shown in all of its glory.
One thing that put me off is that the story drags a bit unnecessarily and it felt as if the editing was inadequate which sucked out a little fun out of the story. This definitely is a powerful story that can perhaps make its way to be called a modern classic in Indian fiction.
There has to be a special mention to the translator J Devika who did an impeccable job of translating the book to English from Malayalam.
This is a great book! This would be a must-read for those who believe in equal rights to everyone. The story definitely sucks you into the world made by K R Meera.
This is a great book for people who like stories which are raw and powerful. If you are looking for a thought-provoking read, then this is a book you can pick up.
To those who are into science fiction and thrillers, and those looking for a light read, this wouldn’t be the best book to go with.
But, nonetheless I believe, one wouldn’t regret having read this book.
I would rate the book:
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