Martha's Reviews > Belonging

Belonging by Umi Sinha
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it was amazing
bookshelves: 2018-yorwoc, fiction, fiction-historical, read-2018, read-women-18, would-read-again

A beautifully written, partly epistolary novel about how secrets perpetuate a cycle of loss and a search for belonging that travels down three generations of one family. Events unfold through the letters of Cecily to her sister Mina, the diaries of Cecily's son Henry, and the third-person perspective of Henry's daughter Lila.

Set against the backdrop of real-life conflict between India and Great Britain, Sinha uses her elegantly written story to show how concealing the truth does more damage than hearing it. Lila and Henry spend much of the novel in the dark about their mothers' stories, leaving them isolated and unable to make connections. As we see through Jagjit's story, the real life concealment of the mistreatment of Indian soldiers in World War I, does much the same.

I couldn't help but see how this one part of history feeds in to the situation we find ourselves in now - isolating ourselves against the fear of the 'other', the fear of ourselves being colonised as we have colonised so many others that leads to the ongoing anti-immigration, nationalist rhetoric. I appreciated this novel for opening a window into a part of history I've long felt uncomfortable about - specifically our nostalgic glorifying of this bygone wartime era that conveniently relies on the erasure of non-white and/or non-British soldiers and citizens.

This novel draws a beautiful balance between real-life history and emotive storytelling. I felt for all of the characters and their desperate need to find belonging in family and home, but also learned about a part of history I wasn't familiar with (the Indian Mutiny of 1857) and gained a new perspective on a part I wasn't familiar with enough (the Indian participation in World War I).

Five stars for an elegant, absorbing and educational read.
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Reading Progress

November 10, 2018 – Shelved
November 10, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
November 27, 2018 – Started Reading
December 2, 2018 – Shelved as: 2018-yorwoc
December 2, 2018 – Shelved as: fiction
December 2, 2018 – Shelved as: fiction-historical
December 2, 2018 – Shelved as: read-2018
December 2, 2018 – Shelved as: read-women-18
December 2, 2018 – Shelved as: would-read-again
December 2, 2018 – Finished Reading

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