At eighteen, Somlata married into the Mitras: a once noble Bengali household whose descendants have taken to pawning off the family gold to keep up appearances.
When Pishima, the embittered matriarch, dies, Somlata is the first to discover her aunt-in-law’s body – and her sharp-tongued ghost.
First demanding that Somlata hide her gold from the family’s prying hands, Pishima’s ghost continues to wreak havoc on the Mitras. Secrets spilt, cooking spoilt, Somlata finds herself at the centre of the chaos. And as the family teeter on the brink of bankruptcy, it looks like it’s up to her to fix it.
The Aunt Who Wouldn’t Die is a frenetic, funny and fresh novel about three generations of Mitra women, a jewellery box, and the rickety family they hold together.
I received a copy of this book from John Murray Press via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
The description attracted me to this book, it was first published in 1993.
Somlata marries into an aristocratic, but cash poor Bengali family, who still have noble aspirations and therefore do not understand the concept of earning a living. To live, they sell off their assets, but even this income source is now in jeopardy. The family lives traditionally in a large house, according to hierarchy. When the matriarch dies, something has to change.
Somlata discovers Roshomoyee’s body, and also her ghost, and a quirky tale of strange occurrences, superstition and change begin. Somlata is effectively the conduit for the ghost’s wishes, and this empowers her and makes her a feared by some members of her new family. Her actions directed by the deceased Aunt bring the family to its lowest ebb, but her sense of empowerment grows and she becomes the key to their survival.
Three generations of women are featured; Roshomoyee, the aunt by marriage who was married and widowed very young, and feels she has been robbed of her rightful life, Somlata, who is bright and brave, and with a little ghostly help, changes all their lives for the better. Boshon is Somlata’s daughter, who believes in herself and her rights, and is not afraid to push against the family’s patriarch model. Interestingly Roshomoyee’s ghost diminishes when Somlata has her daughter?
The story is short but packed with detail, cultural references and family drama, it is humorous in parts and poignant in others. The style takes a little getting used to but it is an interesting story of tradition and female empowerment.