Love the Dark Days

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Pub Date 01 Sep 2022 | Archive Date 15 Dec 2022

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Set in India, England, Trinidad and St Lucia, Love the Dark Days follows the story of a girl, Dolly, born of mixed Hindu-Muslim parentage in post-independence India. When she lives with her grandmother, member of an elite Muslim family, whose history is one of having colluded with the brutality of the British rule in India, Dolly unconsciously imbibes her grandmother's prejudices of class and race. As the dark child in her family, this makes her feel that she does not belong, leading to an over-anxiety to please the adults around her. That feeling of unbelonging is repeated when her family migrates to multicultural Trinidad, made up of people from many continents, where she encounters Indian people, several generations away from India, who have a very different sense of themselves, who appear contemptuous of what they see as her airs and graces. She begins writing about her experiences as a way of trying to make sense of them. In her darkest hour, she meets Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott, who encourages her, when she visits him in St Lucia over a weekend, to leave the past behind and reinvent herself.

Listen to an interview with the author here: 

Set in India, England, Trinidad and St Lucia, Love the Dark Days follows the story of a girl, Dolly, born of mixed Hindu-Muslim parentage in post-independence India. When she lives with her...

Advance Praise

 "I was transported by this gem of a memoir, written over seven years by an award-winning, Indian-born journalist, dubbed Trinidad's "Jon Snow". Set in her home nation and in St Lucia, India and London, it's a multi-layered account of a woman growing to feminist maturity while grappling with the ongoing traumas resulting from her turbulent childhood. With many memorable characters, including her formidable grandmother Burrimummy, it also features Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott, who was a mentor of her work. Monique Roffey is spot on when she calls it a "blaze of a book".

The Bookseller Editor Caroline Sanderson

"A transcendent memoir about extremes of love and hate, princely wealth, and the rebellious, righteous poor. I loved it."

Maggie Gee

"A blaze of a book, astonishing, colonial, post-colonial, modern and post-modern - a Caribbean feminist #metoo memoir that examines inherited patriarchal damage of women and societal norms brought from the Old World to the New. This exquisitely written book examines familial love and fateful blood ties while scrutinising, with compassion, a flawed patriarch and Magnus too, Derek Walcott. Mathur deftly yokes together parallel worlds, colonial India and post-colonial Trinidad. Both worlds are dark, and both worlds hurt women. A memoir like this has never torn itself out of the Caribbean."

Monique Roffey, winner of Costa Book of the Year 2020

"Ira Mathur takes the reader deep into the darkest spaces of her family history. Relentlessly honest, she tells a story of dispossession, patriarchy, passion and the wounds of a divided inheritance. Moving from pre-Independence India to Trinidad and London, we see the growing pains of the author as she decodes her relationships with her glamorous parents, her beautiful piano-playing authoritative grandmother and her siblings. In a world between poverty and privilege, she is guided by Derek Walcott, and Naipaul is ever-present. Ultimately, she must find her own voice, truth, and reconciliation. A window into a world rich in history that few know about. A compelling read.

Shrabani Basu, author of Victoria & Abdul

"This brave and inspiring feminist critique of patriarchy and gender oppression set in Trinidad-- framed by the delusional greed and grandeur of colonial India and a weekend in St. Lucia spent with Nobel laureate Derek Walcott — has terrific promise as a biting movie adaptation for the #MeToo era."

Etan Vlessing, Hollywood Reporter

 "What marvellous and heartrending crossroads multiplied during the twentieth century. Between east, west, north, and south; many kinds of ancient and untold modes of modern; from 'man' and 'woman' to vulnerable beings of imagination and heart... Over the years, I have witnessed Ira Mathur navigating an all too human writer's life; I have yearned for her to put something of her beauty, wisdom and pain into print. Here it is. Stranger and more compelling than any fantasy, here we are."

Vahni (Anthony Ezekiel) Capildeo, Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature (2019) Winner of the Forward Prize 

 "Love the Dark Days is an absorbing and illuminating work of memoir, which manages to straddle continents and epochs while retaining a tight focus on the vibrant characters who link and inhabit them. It is questing and self-questioning, and admirably understanding the inextricability of the past and the present."

James Scudamore

Novelist, winner of 2007 Somerset Maugham Award, Costa First Novel Award shortlist

"A compelling memoir of the binding power of love and the liberating beauty of forgiveness." Earl Lovelace, Novelist, Queens Jubilee Booklist 2022, Winner of OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, (2012 Commonwealth Writers Prize (1997)

"Mathur brings alive startling episodes from her technicolour life, proving truth is not just stranger but often more compelling than fiction. There is a sense of her burning through her days, reckless, raw, and passionate. For all that, she offers the embers of her life with a rarely found wisdom. An exquisite, compassionate, and necessary book.""

 Amanda Smyth shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize, 2022

The stretch from a Mughal empire ancestry to the arrangements between the Mountbatten set and the Nawab of Savanur, the treachery and false promises of dismantled Empire is all channelled through the annoyed, disinherited Burrimummy. We see Trinidad through an experienced journalist's eyes, Walcott and Naipaul.""

Alan Mahar, novelist and former publisher

"One of the most powerful and exciting new voices in contemporary literature. Love the Dark Days is an extraordinary, multi-layered memoir, drawing threads from the colonial past into a moving, contemporary story of fragile relationships. Ira Mathur is a real find."

David Haviland, editor and writer

"I was transported by this gem of a memoir, written over seven years by an award-winning, Indian-born journalist, dubbed Trinidad's "Jon Snow". Set in her home nation and in St Lucia, India and...

Marketing Plan

Pre Launch.Love The Dark Days –by Ira Mathur

Nehru Centre, 8 S Audley St, London W1K 1HF, United Kingdom

July 6 2022, 6.30-8.30

Launch & Conversations on Empire


Ira Mathur, journalist, debut author of Love The Dark Days

Andrew Whitehead, professor of journalism, nonfiction author, and former editor of BBC World News and BBC Delhi correspondent

Jeremy Poynting, Peepal Tree Publisher

Launch of Love The Dark Days –by Ira Mathur

Waterstones London - Victoria. Cardinal Place, 88 Victoria Street, London, SW1E

Wednesday, July 13 2022, From 730pm-to 8.30 pm

Eventbrite link:

Conversations on Empire


Amanda Smyth shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize 2022

Ira Mathur, journalist, debut author of Love The Dark Days

Jeremy Poynting, Peepal Tree Publisher

& Judy Raymond, Editor in Chief, Newsday, Trinidad and nonfiction author.

Pre Order Link

Pre Launch.Love The Dark Days –by Ira Mathur

Nehru Centre, 8 S Audley St, London W1K 1HF, United Kingdom

July 6 2022, 6.30-8.30

Launch & Conversations on Empire


Ira Mathur, journalist...

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Featured Reviews

Love in the Dark Days is a memoir, but its more than a memoir. It’s an feminist oral narrative of the challenges of a female growing up in post-colonial India. The author, Poppet (Journalist Ira Mathur), traces through her own life, and her ancestors the difficulties of women in the Colonial, Patriarchal Indian society. And the difficulties for a female in the post-modern Indian society.

Poppet is bound by her colour (dark where light skinned is desired), her mixed religious background (hindu and muslim), and the fact that she is female. Poppet finds herself sitting uncomfortably wherever she goes, always on the outside looking in. India, West Indies and London. She feels an outsider in her family, in her marriage and in her country and through this novel she tries to make sense of where this dispossession came from.

What Ira does manage to do is paint a colourful picture of her family. The formidable Burriemummy a product of colonialist India, but alienated in the new post-modern society.

This novel is an honest journey through the authors life and soul, which has stayed with me for days afterwards.

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This is a moving book about family, generational pain and colonialism and how the unseen personal effects ripple on into the future. This book is cleverly nuanced and writes about the complexity of love and brokenness beautifully. I found the history of Mathur's family fascinating and the legacy of pain passed through the generations was very moving. A vivid, colourful glimpse into a wealthy Indian family trying to navigate through eras of change, deconstruction and reconstruction with hope of healing in the end.
This honest review is given with thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this book.

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*I received an ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks for the free book!*

"Love The Dark Days" is hard to describe: the story follows Poppet and traces her life, her struggles, but also her family history. Writing about it is about connecting to one's past, one's history, one's family, one's heritage. Poppet is of mixed Hindu-Muslim heritage, the reader learns a lot about post-independence India, but parts of the novel take place in Trinidad and London. It is also a story of colonialism, racism, the Empire. It is a multifaceted, complex story that takes a long time to immerse oneself into, but one is rewarded by the fascinating glimpses into history, into lives and identities, different places. Well written and touching, the photographs at the very end made the entire novel even more personal. No real criticism, but I was a bit confused sometimes, but that's totally on me.

4.5 stars

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Love the dark days Ira mathur
Mathur does a good job in building the setting. The book provides beautiful descriptions of Post-independence India, in particular the descriptions of clothing, and the saris that the main character’s mother wears were excellent. Additionally the vivid descriptions of food, and fruit found on the street, filled the imagination and transported the reader to the setting. The themes of intergenerational pain and the complexity of mother and daughter relationships really comes out strongly. However, I found the dual timeline distracting, when the plot and characters in the postcolonial timeline seemed to progress and became interesting, the author introduced the modern day timeline, which I found not as interesting as the 1970s. I was not entirely sure of the effectiveness of the dual timeline technique. All in all this is a good text for studying postcolonial literature and themes such as colourism, intergenerational trauma, and mother daughter relationships.

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The family history in this book was beautifully written, even more so for the unflinching way Mathur examines the trauma and generations of complicated mother-daughter relationships that continue to haunt her lineage. Burrimummy's increasingly futile attempts to grasp at the power and privilege that her wealthy family enjoyed during the colonial era and the power struggle between her and Ira's parents were especially well written.

Unfortunately I think her family's history got bogged down by the extended narration of her various interactions with Derek Walcott and the influence that had on her writing. While I'm sure it was an important part of her process, at times it just felt like an homage to Walcott's career and consequently, out of place. In a less generous light, it could be seen as a reminder of his endorsement of her writing.

I feel like her personal journey in deciding to write the novel and how it affected the way she viewed her past and the relationships she has with her parents, her sister, her own children and her memory of Burrimummy weren't much talked about. The parts about her marriage raised more questions than answers for me, particularly his treatment of her that was hinted at but never really fleshed out. The last few chapters also seemed to lack the finesse of the rest of the book and I felt that there were too many unanswered questions.

Nevertheless, Mathur is a very talented writer and she can turn a beautiful phrasw. It was interesting to read about her experience as an Indian woman living in Trinidad and marrying into an Indo-Caribbean family, living in a country with a large percentage of its population descended from indentured persons brought over from India. Her reflections on her life here and the conflict it stirs in her was one of the highlights of the book.

I wish that there was more emphasis on her and her family and less on Walcott, but if you enjoy reading about Indian culture and history, its certainly got those in spades.

Thank you for the advanced reader copy.

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A beautifully written story of generations of strong women who attempt to make room for themselves in the societies they find themselves part of. It spans more than 80 years and moves from India during the Raj and in the 1960s, the Caribbean (Tobago) during the 1970s and Trinidad during the 1990s. This is a first for me by the author and one I enjoyed and would read more of their work. The book cover is eye-catching and appealing and would spark my interest if in a bookshop. Thank you very much to the author, publisher and Netgalley for this ARC.


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