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The Woman Who Knew Gandhi: A Novel

3.24 of 5 stars 3.24  ·  rating details  ·  54 ratings  ·  13 reviews
Based on an aside in Mahatma Gandhi's autobiography, in which he mentions a brief but seductive youthful flirtation with an Englishwoman, The Woman Who Knew Gandhi boldly imagines a long correspondence between a spiritual leader from the East and an ordinary woman from the West. In 1948, just after Gandhi's assassination, Martha Houghton receives a letter from Gandhi's son ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published January 7th 2004 by Mariner Books (first published December 31st 2003)
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Keith Heller provides a lovely historical fiction set shortly after WWII in England. The Woman Who Knew Gandhi tells the story from the perspective of a woman who knew Gandhi (I couldn't help myself). Shortly after her parents passing, Martha moved into her aunt's house, which was a questionable affair, it being a quicky hotel type of place and her being so young. Although people question her upbringing, she educates herself in her aunt's basement by reading old books. It is when she is a teenag ...more
Nitya Sivasubramanian
Someday, I'd love for someone to find a batch of the hundreds of postcards I've sent to friends over the years and use them to recreate the relationship I had with that friend and the person I was. What sketchy details would be picked out to support what shaky theories?

Heller's Woman Who Knew Gandhi tries not to be a history of Gandhi's suspect relationship with a girl from his days as a student in Britain. That would be far too People Magazine for a true historian. Instead, the story purports t
Dec 12, 2007 Candice rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Hester, Ellen, Jamie
This entire book was based on a short passage in Gandhi's autobiography wherein he mentions a brief youthful flirtation with an Englishwoman. Since the passage is so brief, the author had lots of freedom in fictionalizing their story.

He chose to make the Englishwoman, Martha Houghton, an ordinary English housewife, which made for good reading. Most of us can identify with ordinary people, even a 75-year-old Englishwoman in 1948. The author imagines that the initial meeting led to half a century
Merry Rassman
I am adding this book to my bookshelf, in retrospect. I read it perhaps 7 years ago and remember thinking that it was one of my favorites. So much so that i lent it to a friend at work, along with glowing reviews with a request that she remember to return it even if it took her a while to get to it. Sadly, she never returned it. But! I remember what a wonderful, and yet deep story this was. A good read!
Loved the idea of a novel developed from a mention in Gandhi's autobiography that he had had a friendship with an Englishwoman. Heller does an admirable job of expanding this. Covers family reactions to her friendship--she keeps a lifetime correspondence with Gandhi a secret from her husband--and it makes the townspeople regard her as different. The novel had a charm and a nice feel for post WWII England.
I wanted to like this a lot more because of the intriguing plot line - a fictional account of an Englishwoman whom Ghandi had a friendship with (she is mentioned in his autobiography so she was a real person but not much is known about her). The book is beautifully written but I disliked the main character enough to really not be able to enjoy the book very much. Some women in my book club loved this book, however.
I would give this 3.5 stars. It would have felt more dynamic if it was non-fiction. It did represent a perfect balance of a love story that wasn't really a love story. I think everyone can relate it to a relationship they've had at one time or another-- a relationship of their own that they thought was more (or less for that matter) than what it really was.
This was an amazing book, surprisingly short and yet very deep. The author sketches out a correspondence that Gandhi actually had with an Englishwoman. In doing so, he asks important questions about the nature of friendship and marriage, and how relationships change over time. The language is gorgeous yet spare. I enjoyed every minute of it.
The writing was lovely and thoughtful in this story about an imagined friendship of many years between an English woman and Gandhi. The story also explores marriage and relationships within and without families. Very well done; I found this book at a library book sale, and I'm glad I read it.
Sep 17, 2007 Carol added it
She is an English matron, and the other man was Gandhi. An enticing premise for a novel that explores postwar England and its relationship w/India, a woman's independence, and the fragile bond of marriage. It's a surprising sleeper of a novel that would make for an excellent book club discussion.
Bcoghill Coghill
Interesting due to the Gandhi link but unexpectedly as relates to older people relating to their adult children. Probably, because that is where I am in the life cycle.
I love books like this that imagine a facet of a historical figure's life and fleshes out what might have been . . .
Sep 25, 2008 Laurel added it
this is written by Bonnie France's paramour! I actually enjoyed it and even read another he wrote, "Snow on the Moon."
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