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Shanta

Author: Marie Thøger
Series: Puffin Story Book
Published: Harmondsworth
Physical Description: 128p.
Notes: This is an important book within the Puffin Book series, and more generally as a publication for a young audience which featured a character of colour. It was first published in English in 1968, and its inclusion in the Puffin Book series in 1973 marks an attempt to represent diverse characters in its publication. This book has been the subject of a review and interview, from the perspective of an Indian girl in Britain in the 1970s, on the British children’s writer, Lelia Rasheed’s website. This review and interview further suggests the book’s potential significance from a reader-response perspective (‘Someone Like Me: Raj K Lal’). The book tells the story of a young girl growing up in India. It is a coming-of-age narrative where Shanta moves towards adulthood and some independence, despite adversity. The novel is written by Danish author Marie Thoger, who worked with a Gandhi Foundation in India, which the book jacket explains enabled her to write the book. Though Thoger usefully focuses on many important issues, such as gender-based violence, poverty, and discrimination, there is sometimes a tendency to romanticise village life. This is balanced to an extent when the availability of doctors for the urban population is contrasted with the reluctance or impossibility of rural populations accessing medical services. The main focus of the novel is Shanta’s arranged marriage to her cousin who lives in a town that has been made prosperous by the construction of a dam. Significantly, Thoger makes no criticisms of the constructions of the dam, or the thousands of dams constructed since Indian independence which have caused an array of difficulties and have displaced vast numbers of people. The marriage is agreed on, largely because it is thought that Shanta will help her cousin to retain his link to the land and to their own people, in a manner that appears to repeat early nationalist constructions of Indian women without challenging or problematizing these alignments. Shanta’s husband-to-be and her own mother die of an illness that sweeps through the village, and the novel ends with the scene of her mother’s funeral where Shanta and her Grandmother must conduct the funeral rituals without the men of the family. The final sentence of the book suggests a cyclicality which does not fully suggest a hopeful future: ‘When the rains came again to the village, the girl Shanta and her family sowed their rice as they had done the year before’ (128).
[Ciara Gallagher].
‘Someone Like Me: Raj K Lal.’ Leila Rasheed. Web. 10 Jul. 2015.
[https://leilarasheeddotcom.wordpress.com/tag/marie-thoger/].
Subject: Representation of Nations and Nationalities, Race, Gender, Genre, Religion, Death, India, Gender, Girlhood, Arranged Marriage, Rural, Urban, Poverty, Hinduism, Coming-of-age Narrative
Language: English
Original price: United Kingdom 20p; Australia $0.65 (recommended); New Zealnad $0.65; Canada $0.85
Library: Church of Ireland College of Education
Collection: Bartlett Puffin Collection - CICE