A Daughter’s Courage by Renita D’Silva
How much would you sacrifice to save your family?
1929. When a passionate love affair threatens to leave Lucy in disgrace, she chooses a respectable marriage over a life of shame. With her husband, coffee-plantation-owner James, she travels to her new home in India, leaving her troubled past behind her.
Everything in India is new to Lucy, from the jewel-coloured fabrics to the exotic spices. When her path crosses that of Gowri, a young woman who tends the temple on the plantation’s edge, Lucy is curious to find out more about her, and the events that lead her to live in isolation from her family…
Now. With her career in shatters and her heart broken by the man she thought was her future, Kavya flees from bustling Mumbai to her home town. A crumbling temple has been discovered in a village nearby, and with it letters detailing its tragic history – desperate pleas from a young woman called Gowri.
As Kavya learns of Gowri and Lucy’s painful story, she begins to understand the terrible sacrifices that were made and the decision the two women took that changed their lives forever. Can the secrets of the past help Kavya to rebuild her life?
I love the cover of this novel, it is absolutely beautiful. I love that the female is in a traditional sari and appears deep in thought. I think it matches the plot completely!
The prologue opens and sets the location and the atmosphere. Which must take exceptional skill, by the writer. You almost feel as if you are watching the scenes play out rather than creating them in your own head. The novel continues various female’s characters, in various eras.
Kavya a modern day woman and Bollywood star, turns her back on the limelight to return to her mother’s home. Her mother is such a cracking character from the off. Domineering, yet loving. Needy, yet able. With very traditional values. I love that we all know, a mother/grandmother, like Kavya’s mother. When she begins to inform Kavya of a local temple that has been discovered via an elephant charging through the area. The novel, suddenly changes and we see the deep historical knowledge come to the surface……..
The temple, is being claimed by Muslims and Hindus alike, whom all want a stake in the potential treasure unearthed. When Kavya’s mother reveals their potential links to the Temple, Kavya becomes determined to know the truth behind the temple. The temple’s main diety is the goddess Yellamma, patron of Devadasis. Which is illegal in modern day in India, but was a form of prostitution in the name of faith.
Gowri is a young girl, in 1924 and we discover the terrible secrets of the past that led her to the temple and the painful hold it had over her. We hear her thoughts and prayers, her internal struggles with gender/poverty inequality. Gowri longs to be a teacher and seeks to break tradition, she doesn’t want to just be some man’s wife. But fate, plays Gowri a much worse hand and she finds herself in service to goddess Yellamma, as a Devadasis, by the cruel trickery of a despicable man, with no soul……..
Lucy a young British woman in 1927 London, has fallen in love. The only problem is, she fell in love across the class structure, falling for a handsome young gardener named Robert. Lucy is forced into a marriage to James Bell, over the shame she would bring to her family if such a marriage to Robert took place.
Meanwhile, Gowri is suffering under her new regime. The loneliness and despair seeps from the pages. We learn of her only ally in the world her previous teacher and their deep bond. But when her only ally suddenly dies, Gowri is left all alone in the world, with just the men whom frequent her shack………
Sue is a modern day woman, also living in London. She has recently discovered she is pregnant, with a much anticipated child. However, Sue’s husband, a soldier fighting in the middle east, has recently been killed in action. Leaving Sue with no family, no friends and no support. She whiles away the hours reminiscing about her grandmother, a high flying archaeologist. The time they shared after the death of Lucy’s mother at a young age. When Sue hears the story of the Temple, over the radio one day, she feels drawn to the story and the secrets of the past. Amongst the rubble of the Temple, a child’s bones are found…………
This novel is a truly incredible story. A story of women and the different struggles they face, the mistakes made and the prices they must pay, spanning decades and right up to the modern day. What will be made of the secrets of the past, when the women’s lives and history, implode upon them?
Highly recommend 5*
*Having enjoyed the novel so much. I ended up doing some mini research myself!
Devadsi Temple to Lord Khandoba in Jejuri, Maharashtra
Q) The novel covers the history of the Devadasis. When did you first learn of the Devadasis?
A) I grew up hearing of the devadasis (I grew up in India), how they had once been respected and how over the past century, their status had deteriorated. The more I read about their plight, the more upset I was and I knew that one day I would write about them.
Q) The character of Gowri, has a painful internal struggle against gender/poverty inequality. Did you set out to cover these themes? Or was this how the character presented herself to you?
A) It was definitely the latter – Gowri grew on me, she took me over, she dictated her story and I was just the conduit, putting her emotions, her angst into words.
Q) Within the novel there are several female characters from various eras and of either British/Indian culture. The characterisation is fantastic and the reader is drawn to their stories equally. What was the inspiration for the individual women?
A) I wanted to show women through the generations and across continents; I wanted to contrast modern women with women from generations past, women in India with women growing up in the West. I wanted to explore their inner struggles, the choices open to them, the constraints of their respective societies and the consequences wrought by their actions. I wanted to show, with each of the women, how, despite the limitations imposed upon them by either their own actions or by society, they managed to keep their sense of self, fight against their circumstances in their own unique ways.
Q) The elephants charging through the jungle and discovery of the temple. Was this inspired by any one particular event?
A) I read a news article about an elephant that got separated from its herd and went on a mad rampage, causing considerable damage. What if the elephant discovered something? I wondered. Something that had stayed hidden for decades, been claimed back by nature. My imagination took over then, conjured up the temple. And it evolved from there.
Q) This novel has a real ‘female strength’ feel to it. The relationship between Kayva and her mother, made me smile very early on in the story. Also having seen the dedication at the start of the novel. Who are the influences from real life? Does your mother play a role in the creation of the novels and various plots?
A) My mother is definitely my inspiration. She is strong, fiercely intelligent and very loving. I was very close to my grandmother too. She was a little like Kavya’s mother – strident and uncompromising, fiercely protective where we, her grandchildren, were concerned, and hiding a generous, warm and hugely caring heart behind a prickly exterior. She is also my inspiration.
My mother does not read my books until they are done, but she does answer any questions I might have during research, although I don’t give the plot away J
Q) What are your favourite reads in the genre and other genres?
A) Oh it’s hard to choose favourites – there are so many brilliant authors and wonderful books out there. To Kill A Mockingbird is my favourite book of all time.
Q) What were your childhood reads and influences?
A) Andersen and Grimm Fairy Tales introduced me to the magical, beautiful world of stories and I haven’t quite recovered yet J
Q) What has been your favourite moment of being a published author?
A) I love hearing from readers – it is rewarding and humbling to find out how your story has affected somebody else, the emotions it evoked in them.
RS: Thank you SO much Abby, for your beautiful review and for featuring me on your wonderful blog!
Renita D’Silva loves stories, both reading and creating them. Her short stories have been published in ‘The View from Here’, ‘Bartleby Snopes’, ‘this zine’, ‘Platinum Page’, ‘Paragraph Planet’ among others and have been nominated for the ‘Pushcart’ prize and the ‘Best of the Net’ anthology. She is the author of ‘Monsoon Memories’, ‘The Forgotten Daughter’, ‘The Stolen Girl’, ‘A Sister’s Promise’, ‘A Mother’s Secret’ and ‘A Daughter’s Courage’.
**Huge Thanks to the author for taking part in a Q&A, on my blog. I wish you every success, with your future writing career. Although this has been my first of your novels, it definitely won’t be my last!