A Bad Character, by Deepti Kapoor

22237214Our unnamed narrator lives in Delhi with her Aunty. Her mother died years ago and her father abandoned them for Singapore. With no one else to take care for her, Aunty has been looking for potential grooms for our narrator. Our narrator doesn’t want any part of a traditional life, but she doesn’t know what she wants instead. Deepti Kapoor lets her tell her story in A Bad Character as she finds someone interesting, lets him mold her, then breaks free of him.

A Bad Character is told from ten years later, as the narrator reflects back on her life. Even as a young girl, our narrator never fit in. Her mother was a loner, too. Our narrator tells us about visiting Varanasi and living in Agra before going to live with Aunty in flashbacks before telling us about how she met her unnamed lover in a cafe.

Our narrator also tells us that their affair doesn’t last long, because he was killed in a traffic accident just a few months after they met. He’s the opposite of what our narrator is supposed to want: unemployed, dark skinned, forward. He shows her the city and its people and draws her out of her shell. They have an amazing sexual connection. But it’s not meant to be. Our narrator’s lover is unstable and falls deeper into drug addiction.

The title of the book comes from a line that often appears in death notices in Indian newspapers. Some of the dead are dismissed as bad characters, as if they deserved their deaths. “Bad characters” like our narrator and her lover just don’t fit in to what their families and societies want. After her affair, our narrator drifts until she finds a way make a living.

This review is tricky to write. Only a few of the characters have names. The pacing is languid. Our narrator tells her story our of order. At times, I was reminded of Tristram Shandy as the narrator started her story over and over again. Unlike Tristram Shandy, this is not a comic bildungsroman. Our narrator doesn’t have a clear goal. She drifts through life. She’s a hard woman to understand.

A Bad Character will reward multiple readings. It’s short chapters are packed with meaning, told through subtle clues like changes in pronouns and drug-induced hallucinations and dreams. Even though our narrator is difficult to comprehend, I was intrigued by A Bad Character and its narrator. Deepti Kapoor took me to a different world.

I received a free copy of this ebook from Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review. It will be released 20 January 2015.

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