The Silent Raga

by Ameen Merchant

It was difficult for me to believe that this book was written by a man.Β  Not that I am trying to be sexist or anything, it is just that the way the characters are built up and the way they act, given the fact that the two main characters are women, it was very intuitive. It was a wonderful read, even more so for a first book.

It is a moving tale of two sisters growing up in an ultra- orthodox Tamilian Brahmin family in an agraharam. The elder sister is made to give up school and take up household responsibilities when their mother dies in a road accident. The trials that follow, unpleasant truths being exposed, the various relationships that are built and destroyed and the music which is part of the destiny of one of the sisters. The book also has the proper Tamilian flavour, with all the Tamil words that are liberally sprinkled in conversations. Some of the conversations took me back to my music class days with a maami.

The only thing that kind detracted from the book for me was the ending. It lacked something. All in all, it was a good read. It kept my attention all through and I could empathize with the characters.

46 thoughts on “The Silent Raga

  1. Notes it down. Need to pick up once I go to India. But I love the cover. It is so so vibrant.

    πŸ™‚ Hope you like the book too. The cover is rather nice, isn’t it? I have started noticing covers after you guys started the cover thing at Bond with Books πŸ™‚

  2. Sounds good. i like Indian books, with a true Indian flavour! trying to read a thousand splendid suns these days, but i get so upset after every few pages, I just put it down for the rest of the day.

    Me too! I love Indian writing for that very reason. Thousand splendid suns is amazing. Do read it – totally worth it.

  3. Another book down..!!! πŸ˜€

    What would I get to hear if I were to review every book I read 😦 I have another review lined up – but on second thoughts – probably better to do it some time later πŸ™‚

  4. Full of tamil flavour, eh ??? Shld give a try !!!

    It is interesting – and also quite stereotyped.

    Music classes from a maaami ??? where ?? where ?? I’ve also been to one. πŸ˜‰

    I learnt Carnatic music for 5 years when I was growing up in Jamshedpur from a maami – She was a really sweet lady πŸ™‚ But then after I stopped, I never practised so I doubt if I can sing at all now 😦 Plan to learn music again in Bangalore with daughter – if she is interested πŸ™‚ Where did you learn?

  5. Hey nice review..sounds interesting…and I loved the’s pretty πŸ™‚

    Do let me know how you find it – if you do read it.

  6. Sounds interesting. I read 2 States a few months ago & could relate to it b’cos of the Tamilian connection. That was more in a hilarious way. I guess this will be in a serious tone?! Shall keep it in mind!

  7. Sounds interesting…I am yet to meet a man who understands women in the full sense, so for a man to write a good book with women as the main characters is amazing…His wife is a lucky woman! I’m jealous 😦

  8. I am glad to hear the news πŸ™‚ actually I’m impressed with the writer as you are amazed of his quality, explaining the life and feelings of two sisters though he is a man!

    Noting it down. wish one day I would go through this one πŸ˜€

  9. Hey where have I read a recent review of the same book? Er…memory fails! Still, I do want to read this. Is this one of the books you got from your local lib the other day?

  10. Hey Smitha, great review, girl! I also read The Silent Raga with disbelief that it was actually written by a guy!!!!!!!!!!! Wonderful characters and written beautifully with a lot of care and insights. Highly recommend it!
    I think the book is also published in US / Canada (I got the same book with the cover you put up from USA)
    Looking forward to other reviews from you!!!

  11. I am definitely going to hunt for this book. I love drama kinda stories you know mom, dad 2 sisters, dad runs off and has an affair, mom goes loony that kind. And I am very partial towards anything Tamil πŸ™‚

  12. Wow, I’ve been still stuck on 1 book since the start of the year and you’re doing books after books.

    I heard about this book when it was released. Unfortunately, I don’t think I have the time or the space in my brains to accomodate a lot of books.

  13. interesting Smithus…………..

    but I do object to the stereotypes that we keep showing all the time……………. I think the “orthodox Tambrahm” theme exists in a dozen books πŸ˜› and it stops being interesting after a time πŸ˜› πŸ˜› πŸ˜›

    This is the first I read of the ‘orthodox Tambrahm’ theme – but then, the very next book I read had the same there – or atleast similar characters. So i agree with you – it does get quite stereotyped. ANd the truth is that such stories could be set in any community in India. Apart from some variations in the customs – orthodox mentality exists everywhere.

  14. I likd the book cover…
    Short and crisp review…looking forward to read more review..
    as i didnt get much time for reading..i luv reading book reviews on blogs πŸ™‚

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  16. I loved this book so much, I bought two more copies for my relatives. I did not find it to be stereotyped at all and the depictions of emotions and characters and thoughts is so accurate it is hard to believe the writer is not tam-brahm!
    It made me cry in the end. Janaki and Mallika are wonderful sisters!!!
    Recommend it to all who like fiction that is an honest reflection of life and choices we can all make.

    I agree iwth you on most counts – except the ending – I was disappointed by the ending, to be honest – it lacked a punch.

    What I cannot understand is why some comments say “stereotype”? If you are tam=brahm you have met many such people in the real life. So why is writing about such characters accurately stereotype? Can you honestly say that such people don’t exist in the tam-brahm society? If it is really accurate you label it “stereotype:, if it is not accurate you also label it stereotype. How can the writer be judged like this when he had done such an excellent job of showing how the agraharam life is? I think you want to deny and cannot accept the truth that there are many orthodox and strict community members. I know many myself. So where is the stereotype in this??!!!
    Read any book without prejudice is what I can say. If it seems real to you, don’t deny that fact by calling it stereotype, Accept the truth that many tam-brahm people are like this and you know that is a fact!

    As for people’s opinion on it being stereotyped – surely they can have that opinion. You might differ – I can understand that – while someone from a similar background might feel that only a certain aspect of that background is given importance in a lot of books. At the end of the day – it is just a matter of opinion, isn’t it?

    Also the depiction of Madras / Chennai in Silent Raga is very accurate (including Marina Beach, Mylapore, Gemini Flyover etc.), and only somebody that has lived in the city can tell you that it is very realistic and factual.

    I am sure most people would agree with you on this..
    Jalaja Ramachari (from Chennai).

    Welcome here, Jalaja, hope to see you around.

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