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Difficult Daughters

3.49 of 5 stars 3.49  ·  rating details  ·  1,416 ratings  ·  80 reviews
Set around the time of Partition and written with absorbing intelligence and sympathy, Difficult Daughters is the story of a woman torn between family duty, the desire for education, and illicit love. Virmati, a young woman born in Amritsar into an austere and high-minded household, falls in love with a neighbour, the Professor--a man who is already married. That the Profe ...more
Paperback, 282 pages
Published September 1st 2009 by Faber & Faber (first published February 28th 1998)
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90th out of 624 books — 1,863 voters
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I’m posting the review under this edition with a brown cover, conveniently ignoring that what I actually read was a flowery pink atrocity. I would have never picked it up myself but I actually reserved it at the library because I liked the title. The pink cover with flowers is the new edition by nons other than Faber, recently responsible for the sacrilegious cover of the anniversary edition of The Bell Jar (

If you have read other books about the strugg
Lakshmi Bharadwaj
All of life is but a vast forgiveness. When I finished the book, I felt tensions transform into stupefied awe, like realizing identity. Like that unbelievable moment of recognition, like the beauty of recall. And I wanted, more than ever to claim this book. I hurried to write my name in it and make it mine…only to find—I already had.
This book made me miss a lot about north India (talk of cooking, of food, of sleeping outside). I wanted to like Difficult Daughters, but overall I thought it was clunky. The partition motif was pretty heavy-handed, and the story skimmed along so many events that I never got much of a feel for the characters. The writing on spaces was much stronger, but didn't receive as much attention. If the narrative was going to be so character focused, I would have liked more time spent ruminating on feelin ...more
Shilpi Jain
Set in the backdrop of World War II, partition and the nascent India, this book is about love- myopic, pure, rebellious, painful but strong. Virmati is the eldest daughter of an affluent Arya Samaj family which encourages education but not independent thinking for their girls. She falls in love with a much married professor with two kids and thus starts the painful journey of being suspended in time for her life to start. After they are married and Virmati disowned by her family, her husband enc ...more
Maulika Patel
This book had a lot of promise, unfortunately, for me, it failed. Having finished the book, I felt that Ida's birth wasn't where it should have ended. It felt unfinished. I never understood why Ida wanted to know more about her Mother's life. I would have liked to know more about Ida's life and more about her relationship with Viramati. The actual bulk of the book is well written, it is an engrossing tale of love and deceit set in the backdrop of India's partition.
I found this sitting in a box of old books and realized I'd never read it. I could not put it down! One of the better books I've read in a while.
Evocative description of life in India in the post-Independence era, especially the culture surrounding women. Some of this has continued even in the 21st century so it felt a little familiar. And poignant description of the few months around Partition - brought it all to life for me. A must-read!
Casee Marie
Manju Kapur’s debut novel, Difficult Daughters, is the powerful story of a young woman’s search for independence in a time when the path of a woman’s future was anyone’s decision but her own. Virmati is a young Punjabi girl, born to a high-minded family in Amritsar; the oldest daughter of an ever-growing brood, Virmati spends much of her youth taking care of her siblings. With encouragement from her father and grandfather, Virmati’s dream of pursuing an education becomes her greatest passion, mu ...more
Kapur’s heroines have also been strong enough to challenge the norms of traditionalism, thereby becoming difficult to suppress and ignored. These women go out of their prescribed boundaries and do whatever they want to. They represent the sensibilities of a modern woman who want to tread on the unexplored path and try to make her own space in the prohibited territory of man’s world.

Manju Kapur herself admits that her characters are woven around women and atmosphere of traditional families. Tra
Vidhya Nair
I met Madhu Kapur before I read her first book. Her book, like her speaks like a voice of a daughter. Exasperated, frustrated, tired. It's a story about acceptance & for love from another. Virmati wanted her mother to love and appreciate her and she accepted a version of it with her choice of Hari. Her tolerance of her circumstances with the backdrop of gaining an education made her even more isolated in her family & to her peers. She wanted to be traditional but she lacked courage to be ...more
Lolly K Dandeneau
Tradition, tradition, tradition... why is it in so many cultures women are suppressed because of tradition? I felt the frustration of being forced to watch siblings, to mother them when you never had the choice. Choice is something many people take for granted. Disobedient Daughters could very well be the title, and when our main character Virmati falls in love with a forbidden fruit (married man) you know it's going to go sour. For many readers with the freedom to stupidly love where we chose, ...more
a pretty in depth study of a woman fighting against her family, her lover, and her own nature in times where the latter is meant to be worth far less than the other two. a historic tragedy is examined, a middle aged woman attempts to come of age as she searches through the relics of her mother's mistakes and melancholy - all in all - it was a bit of at tough read, but it did throw me into punjab in the 1940s with some bit of veracity.
Fabulous book!

I loved the way the relationships in this book are laid out and how much understanding has gone into writing this.

I can sympathise with both the mothers and daughters and it's easy to see how you start thinking and acting like your own mother as you get older and have children of your own.

All the Indian references make me miss my family.
Anushri Jain
For more than many reasons this has made it to touch my heart!
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
The story of this book describes the love story of a 24year old girl, Virmati and her struggle to own the man of her life.
Describing Virmati would be similar to describing any girl of the same age; young, enthusiastic, adventurous, vibrant and highly emotional.

This book provides a brief experience to understand the situation of our country, India during the time of war and how the war along with the social taboos of Indian culture effected the life of Virmati.

Virmari, a young girl who is on a q
Maria Longley
Virmati falls for a married man, Harish, so with that and her desire for education things get tricky at home in a middle class family in Amitsar in the 1940s. It's a time when Gandhi is asking people to get involved in non-violent civil disobedience and women are getting involved (and being arrested) in many new ways, and also a time when traditional roles for women are still the norm. And there is also plenty mention of the Partition. However the novel was at its best when describing the love s ...more
I loved the writing style and characterization - no efforts to explain Indian food, culture - not even translations. Description of Indian households in that period really stand out.

But really what is captivating is the characterization of the women and the men in all grey shades, as victims of circumstance and tradition, of being torn between convention and the need to seek out their own destinies.I dont think there could have been a better title - all sons are expected to be difficult, not dau
I enjoy books with strong female characters who break social norms. Reading this book, I often rotated between being proud of and feeling frustrated with the protagonist-- a mark of dimensional and memorable characters. It's easy to sympathize with both the mothers and daughters in this story, and these relationships absorb you, making it difficult to put the book down. That said, I found the ending of the story to be somewhat rushed-- I was hoping for more insight into the protagonist's relatio ...more
Difficult Daughters is a novel that sweeps you into a world where a young modern girl struggles against traditional values to forge a fulfilling life for herself. With strong dreams to be educated, Virmati falls in love with her new neighbor, an already married professor. Despite the struggles of her family to keep them apart, Virmati sacrifices everything so she can be with her beloved in their scandalous relationship. Her family turns against her and she finds herself alone, trying to hold her ...more
Amazing story of 3 women: grandmother, mother and daughter. They are so similar yet so very different. A good and easy read with a lot of indian cultural background.
The Book
Very thought-provoking; V is fighting her hardest against tradition and doing what her family expects of her as she matures, but finds out that sometimes, when you get what you wish for, it still doesn't turn out quite as you thought it would. The roles and attitudes of men and women in Indian society are pretty unequivocally portrayed throughout the novel, and to my Western eyes the Professor's incredibly selfish behaviour, attitudes and complete lack of empathy towards V and his wife are breat ...more
I loved this book in so many ways. The complex relationship of a married man and a woman who is given the liberty to study in the old traditional orthodox Indian setting, was itself an inquisitive and intriguing read. I could feel for Virmati, the protagonist who is torn between love and family responsibility. She is an epitome of someone who wants to embrace liberty and modernization but is afraid to do so. How the author explains about the protagonist's turmoil, the way Virmati strives for her ...more
Joan Doane
Enjoyed this book and want to read others by this writer. Learning about the goings-on in a middle-class (upper middle-class perhaps?)Indian household was helpful and of interest to me. I'd like to learn more.
Aarthi Sankar
Truly describes the struggle one woman makes to pursue something she desires and the sort of changes that brings about. Exciting though the ending disappointed me, a 21st century girl a little
Ilyhana Kennedy
I enjoyed this novel. It was quite a different reading experience. Whilst written in English, it is steeped in Indian culture. For a reader such as myself, unfamiliar with the culture, it was somewhat challenging to identify the characters as the culture has varying forms of address.
The story covers several generations of cultural transition and the changing dynamics of family relationships. It moves back and forth in time, playing out the personal stories against the backdrop of the political
Elizabeth Grieve
I liked this, but it seemed a little incomplete and did not explain much about Ida, who is searching for information about Virmati. As the protagonist, Virmati's life as an Indian girl of that pre-Partition era was narrowly confined, but she longed to be educated. Her family agreed to her education, but it was frustrating to see her hopes and ambitions pale in comparison to her unfortunate love for a married man. It was well written, evocative of India in that period, but a little unsatisfying i ...more
A beautifully written story of a young, independent woman and her life around the time of India's independence from Britain and partition from Pakistan in 1947.

Vrimati is strong-minded and refuses to go along with the plans her family have for her: marriage, kids, and the like. She falls in love with a Professor, residing in the house next door. The catch: he is already married. Difficult Daughters is about the struggle Vrimati goes through in her life. Though the story is well-developed and th
Definitely a girly book. The cheesy story of the young Indian girl seduced by the obnoxious and cowardly professor.You would have thought that setting the book in the Punjab at the time of the partition would have been a pretext to give interesting insights into this page of history. No. This is just a boring story describing the medieval aspects of Indian society in those days (and perhaps even now).
Difficult daughters is about love, freedom and fighting for both.

It is about the difficult times people has seen during that time, the heartbreaking pain of all killings and wrong doings.

Also after reading this book I realised that our generation is the third or fourth one after the partition/freedom.
Dominic Neesam
A superb portrayal of partition-era India and indeed Pakistan.. the confined and chlostrophobic lives of ordinary Indians, the struggle for girls to gain education rather than marry men they have never met, rejection, love, protest, abortion, moving away, trajedy, death and hope.. all in one!
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Manju Kapur is the author of four novels. Her first, Difficult Daughters, won the Commonwealth Prize for First Novels (Eurasia Section) and was a number one bestseller in India. Her second novel A Married Woman was called 'fluent and witty' in the Independent, while her third, Home, was described as 'glistening with detail and emotional acuity' in the Sunday Times. Her most recent novel, The Immig ...more
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