A dying grandmother gives a task to her granddaughter. She wants her to find a tree. This soon turns into an adventure for Maya, who finds another task waiting for her as she finds that tree.
If you’re interested in reading stories about women, mixed with elements of historical fiction, you need to keep reading!
So, today, I’m reviewing The Granddaughter Project by Shaheen Chishthi. This was a sponsored read for me. I read it and now, I’m ready to tell you what I think about it.
About The Author – Shaheen Chishthi
The author Shaheen Chishthi is an Indian-British author who is a member of London Literary Society & Muslim-Jewish Forum in London. He is also the descendent of the revered Sufi Saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisthi, whose shrine is also known as Ajmer Sharif Dargah.
His writing basically attempts to uplift women. This is his debut novel.
About The Book: The Granddaughter Project
The granddaughter project is one book that touches many subjects through stories of different women from the past. So, I told you about Maya. Right? She’s the granddaughter who gets a task from Kamla, her grandmother.
As you read the book & Maya moves forward with her project, there’ll be letters you’ll read. Through these letters you jump into the male dominated and incredibly difficult times in history like the devastating Bengal famine of 1943, holocaust and the 1958 Notting Hill race riots in the UK.
So, all in all, the book is about the stories of 3 women each facing one of the most difficult tragedies of human history. All 3 belong to a different background, have a different story & different problems but a common thread binds them all together. Through the letters of the agonies of their past, these women are trying to send a message to their next to next generations – their granddaughters in order to better equip the young women to thrive in their present.
Okay, now my review of this book.
As you dive into the book, you get introduced to Maya & the project. The author’s writing is nice & smooth enough, right from the beginning. You get to know of Maya and her fiancé and her own life in London, that’s come to a pause as she gets this project from her dying grandma.
Maya’s grandmother is Kamla. Through Kamla’s story, you’re introduced to the time that claimed lives of over 3 million people. The Bengal Famine of 1943.
I had only a vague idea about this, but reading the book and Kamla’s narration of that time – the pain, the starvation, the helplessness – that was eye-opening & heart breaking. At the same time, something I felt I should read more about.
Knowing your past helps you understand your present better. That’s the theme of the book but that also happens to be the truth of our lives.
Kamla also discusses that time when men acted more like scavengers preying on needy women. The book highlights the hypocritical animalistic behaviour of men in all the 3 letters.
Honestly speaking, Kamla’s narration of this time was beautiful, but also tragic. But there were a few elements in the story that felt unbelievable. The main concept was done right but the romance between Rajeev & Kamla – that didn’t sit well. Some details of the book seemed too polished & at some points, the whole progression was missing. For example, Kamla learned to speak almost perfect English in 11 years but you don’t see this in continuity, maybe because this isn’t the part of the main concept but I believe this detail was important enough to get attention but otherwise, the storytelling in the book has been brilliant.
Then, begins the story of Helga, a woman who went through the Holocaust. Her childhood as a much loved and comfortable daughter changed drastically because of the nazis. The descriptions of the horrors she and her Jewish family had to go through, the participation of men in worsening these horrors is distressing, painful and tragic.
As this particular letter is read, I begin to wonder – is every man in this story bad? You see that’s one of the things I didn’t like about this book. The story seems so biased as most main characters in the stories of these women are given the role of an abuser, hypocritical or dishonest men but any good man they do come across is casually set aside in the story.
At some points, their abuse & their sudden character changes seem forced. For example, Helga’s father. Even though, you would eventually believe what he had become, the progression was dealt with a kind of casualness that seemed to say ‘all men are like this’ and as if there was nothing to tell of their story. I mean I understand the book is about women, and women empowerment but I don’t understand why for that to happen, every man must be a villain in their story. There are good men out there and even in this story & the fact that they weren’t highlighted even a bit while the whole book highlighted the atrocities of men… well, that seemed very biased & one-sided.
Somewhere in between Helga’s story, the whole book just focused on condemning men.
Anyhow, then you’ve another and the last letter by Lynette. Through her story, you experience the life of an immigrant who moves to UK with her daughter for a better life (Lynette is that daughter in the story) and is met with lies, & racism pushing her into prostitution.
Overall, all three stories are heart touching & well-written. I liked reading the whole book. Gave me so much insight into the history of not one, but three different times in three different locations. My existing viewers know I love the Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and I have to say this book came quite close to that in terms of the vibe & concept. This would have been even better if the certain elements were done a little better especially the treatment towards men in these stories by the storyteller.
That’s what I think. I over-all gave it 4/5 stars. I would recommend this book to you if you’re interested in historical fiction focused on women’s lives that also includes diversity in terms of the time in history as well as the location & background of the characters.
Have you read this book? If yes, comment below!