Inside the Mirror
by Parul Kapur
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Pub Date 01 Mar 2024 | Archive Date 29 Feb 2024
Ms. Magazine's Most Anticipated Feminist Books of 2024
In 1950s Bombay, Jaya Malhotra studies medicine at the direction of her father, a champion of women’s education who assumes the right to choose his daughters’ vocations. A talented painter drawn to the city’s dynamic new modern art movement, Jaya is driven by her desire to express both the pain and extraordinary force of life of a nation rising from the devastation of British rule. Her twin sister, Kamlesh, a passionate student of Bharata Natyam dance, complies with her father’s decision that she become a schoolteacher while secretly pursuing forbidden dreams of dancing onstage and in the movies.
When Jaya moves out of her family home to live with a woman mentor, she suffers grievous consequences as a rare woman in the men’s domain of art. Not only does her departure from home threaten her family’s standing and crush her reputation; Jaya loses a vital connection to Kamlesh.
Winner of the AWP Prize for the Novel, Parul Kapur’s Inside the Mirror is set in the aftermath of colonialism, as an impoverished India struggles to remake itself into a modern state. Jaya’s story encompasses art, history, political revolt, love, and women’s ambition to seize their own power.
“With breathtaking lyricism and scorching insight, Kapur captures women in flux brilliantly. This profound book complicates the impact of colonialism and throbs with life. Inside the Mirror is an extraordinary novel.”—Jennifer Maritza McCauley, author of When Trying to Return Home
“Inside the Mirror is a complex and compelling story of a displaced family living in the shadow of post-Partition India. Parul Kapur has written a gorgeous novel about art, independence, and the roots that bind a family together.”—Devi S. Laskar, author of Circa and The Atlas of Reds and Blues
“Inside the Mirror is an extraordinary and moving story about twin sisters, Jaya and Kamlesh, as they struggle to pursue their passion and independence as women artists from a conservative society. Crafted with elegance and precision, and heartrending in its exploration of family drama, this novel is a beautiful and ambitious work of fiction.”—Brandon Hobson, National Book Award finalist and author of The Removed
“A sparkling jewel of a novel, Inside the Mirror follows twins Jaya and Kamlesh as they pursue artistic ambitions. Battling their own fears, the young women wrestle with the familial and cultural expectations holding them back. Even as relationships splinter and trust is broken, Jaya and Kamlesh bravely seek lives without limits, lives in which they attain the grace they have long deserved.”—Heather Bell Adams, author of Maranatha Road and The Good Luck Stone
“Parul Kapur’s compelling debut novel, Inside the Mirror, explores the tension between family bonds and the pursuit of artistic passion. Set against the backdrop of post-Partition Bombay, this meticulously researched story follows twins Jaya and Kamlesh as they grapple with the quest for self-expression within a tightly-knit community that has predetermined their life paths. Kapur expertly recreates the social complexities of 1950s Bombay, illustrating the profound impact each twin has on their family and community as they pursue their chosen vocations—painting for Jaya and dance for Kamlesh. Every decision they make comes with a sense of guilt and shame. In eloquent prose Kapur explores themes of women’s roles, the power of art, familial obligations, and the sacrifices entailed in seeking self-determination.”—Geeta Kothari, author of I Brake for Moose and Other Stories
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Average rating from 6 members
Thanks very much to the publisher and NetGalley for the eARC of this remarkable debut. I love to find any novel exploring the tension between a desire to create art and pressure from family, from society, to embark upon a more “practical” path. Inside the Mirror is a nuanced and beautifully written look at two sisters in 1950s India struggling with this conflict with their respective art forms, visual art and dance.
This is my fifth book about the middle of the 20th century. It seems contemporary writers find a certain romanticism about that era. It was a time when the world was exhausted from two devastating world wars. There was renewed vigor to rebuild and ensure peace prevailed. The warm war was replaced by a Cold War. Colonized nations demanded independence from European powers not just to reclaim land but also their culture.
Parul Kapur talks about that era from an Indian perspective. I found the book very interesting. The use of twins to demonstrate challenges in visual and performing arts was intriguing. Explaining the paintings the protagonist was developing helped create a vivid mental image. The older freedom fighter grandma's inability to guide her grandkids was a reflection of human nature. Each generation has its own dreams to pursue.
The love triangle between the twins and a man was an interesting addition to the drama of life.
I recommend this book to readers who want to learn about post-independence India.
A slow-paced decent debut about twin sisters who are struggling with societal pressure, their parents concerns, and their own interests. The first half of the book seemed directionless and I would have liked it if the chapters alternated between the sisters as it felt like it only focused on one perspective majority of the time. While it also attempts to bring to light the aftermath of the partition, it felt quite one sided and biased. However, it does a good job at highlighting social and class differences. It also has a good reflection on the naivety of the sisters and traditional Indian mentality, actions, and behaviors -- a strong judgment of what women should do and who has a say in that. This is illustrated better in the second half which felt more drawn together as it bridges societal ideology and stigma of choices of women.
Thank you Netgalley and University of Nebraska Press for my ARC ♥️
I have always been fascinated by Indian literature, and this book has only deepened my love for the genre. Set in 1950s Bombay, the story follows twin sisters Jaya and Kamlesh as they navigate their individual passions and dreams amidst societal expectations and family dynamics. What I love about this book is how it masterfully explores the complexities of family relationships, the power of creative expression, and the resilience of women in a rapidly changing India. The writing is vivid and immersive, transporting me to the bustling streets of Bombay and into the hearts of the characters. I found myself rooting for Jaya and Kamlesh, relating to their struggles and triumphs as they carve their own paths in a society that often seeks to define them. Indian literature never fails to impress me, and this book is no exception.♥️
I can't believe this is a debut! This book is STUNNING: it has one of the most gorgeous openings I've read all year!Despite not knowing anything about India or Indian culture I was totally wrapped up in this story of contemporary Mumbai, the 1947 partition, and the lives of artists in the book. The author both seems to know her world (lived in Mumbai for many years plus working as a press officer in the UN and at Travel and Leisure) and has thoroughly researched it. Jaya and Kamlesh are irresistible characters struggling to become artists in a 1950s patriarchal society and even on the other side of the world a century later I felt totally in their world. At first I was intimidated by the particularities of the place but in the end the author trusts her readers by not dumbing down the history and society.