What the Body Remembers by Shauna Singh Baldwin
What the Body Remembers
Shauna Singh Baldwin
(Vintage Canada, Toronto: 2000)
First published by Alfred A. Knopf Canada, Toronto, in 1999.
READ: March 2008
What the Body Remembers tells, put simply, the history of two women and the man they both love. The more complicated version is that it is the story of families, cultures, and religions struggling to survive against the backdrops of the 1930s, World War II, and ultimately, the partition of Pakistan and India after the Second World War.
Singh Baldwin's writing style is lyrical, yet clear. She knows her characters well; sometimes too well, in fact, as occasionally I wanted her to step back and explain why someone was acting in such a way, though I could tell their actions were based in cultural norms (but ones with which I am unfamiliar). She does better on the personal level than she does on the political level; but in a way, that is fitting, since the characters themselves, especially Roop, do not really comprehend what is happening in the world outside their small circle, at least not until near the very end of the tale (when India and Pakistan are undergoing their very chaotic, violent partition).
My only negative comment about this book, then, would stem from this: I wanted a bit more politics and a bit less story. However, in all fairness, I think that is telling of my current reading interests, rather than a real critique of any fault or shortcoming of this novel.