Manju Kapur`s second novel, A Married Woman, traces the life of Astha from her early adulthood through her middle years. It is the story of her life as she marries, explores the nuances of marital bliss, plateaus in her relationship with her husband. She goes on to become a painter. Then a social activist. After that comes a turning point where she is attracted to a woman.
Astha`s life goes through such interesting stages, none of which however, evoke any interest in the heroine of the piece. It is strange that issues that evoke feelings are not good enough for the reader to get carried away and identify with Astha. There seems to be a total lack of impact.
Is this a book about two women? About a relationship between two women? You wonder. You are led to think so. But no. This is not about that. The novel is about much more than this relationship. Astha`s life is about events and traumas far more important that this novel relationship.
Astha is not `in love` with Pipee. In fact it appears as if both Astha and her creator are quite confused about their feelings for Pipee! We are not into moralising here. But one would expect the story to take some stand or direction.
Astha, for all her struggles, is an alien to the reader. She does not touch a chord anywhere. The only passion that seeps through, is the rich social context against which Astha emerges as a socially committed painter. The Babri Masjid has a pivotal role to play.
Astha raises a lot of questions in the enquiring mind of the reader. Questions that the author prefers not to answer. One would think there is enough meat in the matter for more than one storyline. But not one has been seen through with a thoroughness that would create an impact.
A book that could have been a `read again.` If it had been more daring.