Book Club With Tania Sarkar – The Forest of Enchantments Book Review

Book Review Episode 3 : With Guest Author Tania Sarkar

Books we feel are the most important element in our lives and slowly with growing years, the habit of reading good books have vastly been replaced with things such as Social Media. The concurrent result of which is that our general ability to think clearly is clouded or have detailed knowledge about any subject has deteriorated. So in an effort to make the young generation read again, we are going to continue with this series.

About Tania: Tania has completed graduation with English honours. Then She has done Masters in Library and information Science. Currently pursuing M.Phil in Library and Information Science. She loves to read books. Although, she reads any type of book, but her main interest is in mythology. She loves animals and has a quirky and satirical way of looking into a particular situation.

Follow Tania on Instagram – @tani_adoptingbhalu

Today’s Book : Forest of Enchantments By Chitralekha Banerjee Divakaruni

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Sita- the princess of Mithila and queen of Ayodhya- is a woman whose story we know since childhood. We know at least something about her marriage, how Ram won her by breaking the Haradhanu, her years of exile with Ram-Laxman, her abduction by Ravan, the war, her Agnipariksha. But Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s The Forest of Enchantments(published in 2019) has more to offer about the well-known story of Ramayana.

The story starts with Sita in the ashrama of Sage Valmiki where she gets Ramayana- the story of galore of Ram, her husband. She spends whole night reading the story. Reading the book she discovers, there was nothing about her dark days when she was abducted by Ravan. Next morning, she declares she wants to write the story from her side- the Sitayana. And thus the reader gets to know the story of Sita- the daughter Sita, the wife and lover Sita, the Mother Sita and most importantly the woman Sita.

The book describes the character and the story of Sita from the very beginning- the girlhood where she plays with sister Urmila, visits parvati temple every morning, falls in love with Ram(remember how did you feel when you fell in love for the first time?), their marriage and the beginning of womanhood. She plays the perfect daughter-in-law who tries to mend the relationship of Queen Kaushalya and King Dasharatha. She is the unusual Princess who loves to cook for the family. The story also portrays  a very unique quality of Sita- the healing with the help of plants and herbs. We all heard Sita was the incarnation of Goddess Laxmi. But here she is the human Sita with feelings and flaws. She gets angry, she doubts whether Ram would love her in the way like her father or that would be more like Dasharatha,she feels uncomfortable with things. Finally the story reaches that episode when she is abducted by Ravan. The book describes her days in the forest, her pain, her wait for Ram to come in her rescue and also the life after returning to Ayodhya, Ram’s treatment towards her. Even after returning to Ayodhya, she had to fight to prove her innocence and the book describes whether she wins or fails.

The retelling of Ramayana from the point of view of Sita has been attempted several times. Authors like Amish tripathi (Sita : Warrior of Mithila;2017), Devdutt Pattanaik(Sita :an Illustrated Retelling of Ramayana;2013), Samhita Arni (Sita’s Ramayana;2011) has already written books like this. What makes the book unique is its treatment of Sita as a woman in the first place and not a princess or queen. A princess or queen has some protocol to follow. In this book woman, Sita is able to break that protocol to claim her rights. She is a warrior who speaks of women. When Ram tells her about the rights of man in his kingdom, she immediately asks about women. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s books always speak of women and this book brings out the feminist Sita- who thinks about her sister Urmila, mother-in-law Kaushalya and women of the kingdom.

Another unique point of the book is its treatment of the other women character like Ahalya, Surpanakha, Mandodari, Kaikeyi, Urmila, Kaushalya, Sunaina. There are women characters in Ramayana whom we generally count as negative characters. This book tried to depict the reasons behind their actions and no doubt it succeeded in giving them justice.

This book though emphasizes on the females, one cannot claim that it provides trivial importance on the male characters. Ram, Ravan, Laxman, King Janaka, King Dasaratha and all other characters are treated fairly. They are pictured as humans who have flaws and sometimes fail to judge their women correctly and take wrong decisions and regret later.

Read the previous book review here

Plot, in any mythological fiction plays very pivotal role for the impact on reader. Though it is mainly the characterization of the book for which the reader will take interest on the book, the beautiful placing of the well-known and not so well-known stories from Ramayana and the beautiful mixing of it with how the author wants her Sita to act is another unique thing of the book.The minute details of Sita’s relationships, her feelings, her pain-anger-happiness shows the author’s depth of research on Ramayana. The book definitely teaches the women reader when to say no or when to decide that she should just let go something. The only thing which I felt the author could take care is lacking the stress on the parts which was supposed to be the central idea. As we got to know about it while reading the book, the Forest of Enchantment is the Ashoka Garden of Ravan and her dark days in the forest were supposed to get more emphasis. But the stress is more on the early life of Sita than her days in the forest in Ravan’s captivity.

Goodreads has a rating of 4.11/ stars out of 5(4,429 ratings). I would like to give it 4.9 stars.

This sure sounds like a winner. Would you read it? Let us know in the comments section.

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