The Seduction of Silence
This literary saga follows the troubled lives of four generations of Indian women. The unhappy marriage of rigidly-traditional Jyoti Ma to the dreamer Aakash ends when Aakash leaves their Himalayan estate, Prakriti, to seek spiritual enlightenment. Their daughter, Tulsi Devi, is sent to convent school – only to have a brief affair lead to a loveless marriage to a man many years her senior. Their strong-minded daughter Rohini marries an Englishman, an act that divides the family and estranges her from her puritanical father. Seeking enlightenment, Rohini communes with the spirit of her grandfather Aakash – to the dismay of her daughter Saakshi. But a return to Prakriti brings the family – and their emotions – full circle, reconciling past and present – and future.
This book is lyrically written and emotionally compelling. What it is not is a historical novel or saga. The author’s interest is not historical fact or detail, but emotional truth and spiritual growth. Although it covers five generations in India, the historical detail is so vague that I spent the first half of the book thinking it began in the late Victorian period (references to “the Queen” didn’t help), and that the war briefly mentioned was the Great War. Then, on page 252, “the war was over, the British were leaving India, India was divided, and Gandhi was dead.” The information that it was actually now at least 1948 was a major jolt. There also seemed to be an awful lot of vivid childbirth scenes.
So if you’re looking for an “Oprah pick” and an emotional wallow, this book will not disappoint. If you’re looking for a historical novel in the M.M. Kaye tradition, The Seduction of Silence isn’t it.