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When I Hit You
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When I Hit You

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  4,832 ratings  ·  725 reviews
Seduced by politics and poetry, the unnamed narrator falls in love with a university professor and agrees to be his wife, but what for her is a contract of love is for him a contract of ownership. As he sets about reducing her to his idealised version of a kept woman, bullying her out of her life as an academic and writer in the process, she attempts to push back - a resis ...more
Paperback, 249 pages
Published March 1st 2018 by Atlantic Books (first published May 4th 2017)
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Average rating 4.11  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,832 ratings  ·  725 reviews

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Hannah Greendale
Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend.

When I Hit You’s unnamed narrator gives a staggering account of psychological manipulation and marital abuse. The book’s patchwork structure is frenetic yet elegiac. The subject matter is distressing but approachable. Above all, Kandasamy's sharp voice and her arresting linguistic style are bread and wine for the soul. This ranks among the fiercest competitors on this year’s longlist; it will come as no
Mar 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018-read, india
"That is the aim of the rapes, all this rough sex. Not just a disciplining, but a disabling. He believes that after him, I will have nothing in me to love, to make love, to give pleasure. This is a man breaking his own wife. This is a man burning down his own house."

This is not for the faint of heart, the book is in fact full of paragraphs like the one cited above. Kandasamy tells the story of a highly educated Indian woman from a well-to-do family who marries a man who keeps the outward appeara
Apr 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is a book that has roused many responses in me, not always good. In the beginning, just after reading a few pages, I made up my mind about the writer. She proved me right, to an extent, in the first half of the book. It is terrible when one's negative thoughts about the writer come true. This book for me is more like an essay than a novel. In the beginning, it reads like as if the author has read too much theory. There is nothing wrong with reading theories, but one hardly writes a good novel ...more
Elyse  Walters
I bought this book from the UK after reading extraordinary reviews- shattering- about a young woman who marries a dashing University Professor who behind closed doors is a bullying, abusive, monster. I was warned about the physical and sexual violence- but readers expressed the importance of reading this courageous, brave poetic book of the year: shortlisted for the Jhalak Prize, Longlisted for the Dylan Thomas prize - Women’s Prize Fiction for 2018.
I wanted to support the book - even offer a s
Jennifer (Insert Lit Pun)
The words I would use to describe this book – powerful, unflinching, raw – all sound cliché, but they’re all true. Video review here: ...more
Resh (The Book Satchel)
Brilliant! Read it already.

I had a lot of doubts in my mind when I picked the book. Is it stereotypical? Is it bashing all marriages in India in general? Is it a long personal rant? Yes, I had read Meena's poems before this but I had these looming questions about the novel.

And....It is none of the above. This novel is so raw and powerful; it will make you cringe. It will make you feel terrified. I loved the honesty in the voice. I loved it when Meena Kandasamy wrote that she wrote about strong w
Jul 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
As a man, I don't feel capable of writing a conventional review of this compelling, intensely personal, visceral, brutal, raw and above all human story of how a talented young poet and writer found herself trapped in an abusive marriage, and how she eventually escaped from it. All I can do is to spread the word and urge others to read it.

We are discussing this book in the 21st Century Literature group this month here:
Reading_ Tamishly

2 stars solely for the vivid writing style and making me read the book with rapt attention and making me feel and see everything as real in my head.

However, for the rest of the book, I have issues, issues and issues.
I can understand why everyone loves this book. It shows the horrifying experience of a woman who was being abused in the worst ways possible both privately and publicly. Everything was just shut off from her by her husband. Yes, I appreciate how the main protagonist struggled
Srividya Vijapure
Many years ago, when I was studying law, I worked with a non profit organization that dealt with women’s issues along with many others. I was in my final year of law when I met her. She was a woman from a well to do family, husband had a thriving business and all was good and dandy when seen from outside but the inside was a different story altogether. She came to me one evening as I was alone in the office. My senior had gone out and I was alone. She wanted to talk to someone. I informed her th ...more
Jun 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reviewing a novel like this is not easy: Kandasamy organises the raw material of domestic abuse and coercive control and uses her own experience to express it in novel form. Her new husband was outwardly radical, left wing, sensitive and caring. The reality was very different:
“No one knows the peculiar realities of my situation.
How do you land a job when:
• you end up somewhere in the middle of the teaching semester?
• you have no contacts in a strange city?
• your husband has forced you off social
Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer
I am the woman who has tried to shield herself from the pain of the first person singular …. I am the woman who stands in place of the woman who loathes to enter this story in any of its narrations … because that woman has struggled so hard and long to wriggle out of it – and now when asked to speak, she would much rather send a substitute. Sharing stories might be catharsis, but to her it is the second, more sophisticated punishment. I am the woman deputed on her behalf.

Now shortlisted for
Alexis Hall
Welp. This was incredibly difficult reading – although I guess that’s obvious from the title. I mean, you kinda know what you’re getting a book called ‘When I Hit You'.

Content warnings for, like, all the domestic violence and sexual abuse.

So this book is fairly straight forward in terms of, err, events. In the aftermath of heartbreak, the narrator (who remains nameless), a highly educated Tamil woman from a respectable family, a poet and a writer in her own right, marries a man (who also remains
Roman Clodia
Jul 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am the woman who stands in place of the woman who loathes to enter this story in any of its narrations - police or procedural, personal or fictional - because that woman has struggled so hard and so long to wriggle out of it - and now, when asked to speak, she would much rather send a substitute. Sharing stories might be catharsis, but to her it is the second, more sophisticated punishment. I am the woman deputed on her behalf.

Such a bold book which self-consciously breaks taboos about spe
Viv JM
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for:
When I Hit You tells the tale of a young wife's treatment at the hands of an abusive husband. First, he cuts her off and seeks to control her (making her delete her Facebook account, hand over her phone, tell him her email password) and he moves on to physically beating and raping her. This is certainly, and rightly, an upsetting and harrowing book, but in no way gratuitous. The writer takes control of her story and her life and eventually leaves the husband, after four months of marriage.

"I am the woman who asked for tenderness and got raped in return. I am the woman who has done her sentence."

This is one hell of a book. It has had such a profound effect on me, I'm not even sure I'm happy that I finished it so quick. "When I hit you" is a very personal account of a young woman in India, and the abusive marriage she endured. The young woman is a writer, and she fell in love and married a professor. Soon after the marriage things begin to change. He starts mentally abusing her, by
This was a tough read of that there is no doubt.

The title is fierce and the writing while beautifully poetic and darkly humorous is also uncompromising and raw. It leaves you with a portrait of the lives of women in India which is frankly horrific. Of course at some level this should not be news, as we have all seen (or maybe looked away from) those headlines about burning and gang rape and other unpleasantness that is often convenient to consign to problems that don't belong to us.

Reading this
“My written body opens up only to the extent I decide to demarcate. It does not require the permission of my parents, it does not require the approval of society. My words might reveal a generous cleavage, a breaking waist, but they do not let anyone put their hands on me. Wrapping my body into words, I proof it against the prying eye, against inspection. I have sheathed it against the hands of others. My woman’s body, when it is written down, is rape resistant.”

This book… This! Book!

I had t
Sep 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, favorites
This book is brutally honest and wonderfully poetic.

Just like the writer it continuously encompasses all themes whilst simultaneously contradicting itself along the way as well.

Our narrator here details her life from being a younger woman trying to establish herself as a writer to a survivor of rape and domestic abuse.

Throughout the chapters her storytelling is so vivid and honest, I couldn’t put this book down. It details such a strong woman.

The way the writers poetry and chosen quotes dotted
Mar 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
When I Hit You is a brutal and uncompromising look at one woman's abusive marriage in India. I'm at a complete loss for words with this book - I just want to shove it into everyone's hands who has ever asked 'if the relationship is abusive, why doesn't she just leave?' Kandasamy answers that question with unapologetic candor, in this semi-autobiographical novel that fuses lyricism with forthrightness in a way that's utterly striking.

The narrator in When I Hit You is an aspiring writer and a self
chantel nouseforaname
Meena Kandasamy. This book is levels of difficult. The abusive marriage the narrator endured, not many find their way out of those situations and it's a fucking travesty that this abuse continues. It's a international disgrace that so many bodies on so many levels are complacent with the suffering, abuse and subjugation of women and girls globally. It's a fucking travesty that we describe violence against women the way that we do. That we don't even label it out in the open as what it is, violen ...more
Inderjit Sanghera
he cage occupied by then narrator in ‘When I Hit You’ isn’t solely limited to her marriage; the bruises worn by the narrator aren’t limited to her body; the dehumanisation the narrator feels due to her gender isn’t limited to just men; ‘When I Hit You’ acts as a microcosm for how deeply embedded patriarchy is in society, in which the violence enacted by men is seen as something to be explained and excuse and the violence suffered by women as something to be ridiculed, where concepts of shame ove ...more
May 31, 2018 rated it liked it
I read about the first 35 pages and skimmed the rest. I loved the witty opening, as the narrator’s mother exaggerates the rundown condition in which her daughter returned to her when she left her abusive marriage. The daughter thinks, “I need to stop this, before my story becomes a footnote to a story about lice infestation. I must take some responsibility over my own life. I must write my story.”

And so the narrator tells of how she tried to bend herself to her Communist activist husband’s wishe
An incredible work of creativity in working through the post-trauma of domestic violence.

I am reminded of the quote I shared on my blog, in my review of Aminatta Forna's Happiness, a quote that came from Salman Rushdie in fact.
“Those who do not have power over the story that dominates their lives, power to retell it, rethink it, deconstruct it, joke about it, and change it as times change, truly are powerless, because they cannot think new thoughts.”

Meena Kandasamy has taken charge of her story
Victoria (Eve's Alexandria)
This was an excoriating read, and absolutely not what I expected in terms of style. Kandasamy’s prose is direct, uncompromising and confrontational, in a way that reminds me of Mohsin Hamid but which is also unlike him because it isn’t in anyway contrived. The canny structure and rhythm of the narrative grips you and pins you in place, so that you can’t look away, even when what you’re reading is devastating and horrific. (See: the fact that I read this in two sittings.) And there are a lot of h ...more
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes the shame is not the beatings, not the rape.
The shaming is in being asked to stand to judgment
4.5 rounded up

Wow. Given the title I expected this book to be intense and hard-hitting but I still don't think I was completely prepared for how raw and graphic this was.

Our unnamed narrator (a young Indian woman writer in her late 20s) has a secret affair with and ends up marrying an older political activist and moves in with him, isolating her from her family. Almost immediately after marriage the domestic abuse begins. Her husband is a paranoid, sick and manipulative person, harming himself a
Eric Anderson
Dec 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a book that felt so thrillingly alive and teeming with ideas that I frequently copied down quotes while I was reading it. Meena Kandasamy writes about a young woman reflecting on the atrociously abusive marriage that she lived through. Her narrative is very analytical as it artfully poses statements with challenging concepts and ideas about why abuse occurs, why the abused feel pressured to remain in that relationship and the challenges of extracting oneself from that relationship, but a ...more
Must read. For everyone.
If you are a woman, read this book and tell yourself how bad some people in this world could be. If you are a man, read it to know the atrocities women have to put up with. If you are a parent, read this to know that you have to support your girl and teach your boy to be a sensitive human being. And if you are a citizen of the world, read it to know how harsh the world is and how quick it is to judge, in many cases.

The soft-gore, emotional abuse , physical torture and th
Jul 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
This is a hard book for me to review. There are two main reasons for this. The first is the difficult subject matter which I will come back to shortly. The second is the simple fact that several of my Goodreads friends have already read the book and written excellent reviews and I feel like anything I write will look like plagiarism. So, without further ado, I refer you to reviews by

Gumble’s Yard

There is little I can add to these. This book takes an important topic and gives
May 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the kind of book one reads from the stomach; the kind that holds against the light of comprehension a 'shocking' violence which otherwise hides in plain sight. Emotionally reeling despite its brevity, When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife is a personal and deeply political story of surviving marital abuse and of a deeply flawed society, a poetic treatise on strength, desire, ideological blindness, and trauma.

And yet, while the Joycean echo of the title may imply
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