Book Review: This House of Clay and Water by Faiqa Mansab

  • ISBN: 978-0670089420
  • Genre: Fiction/Drama
  • Publishers: Penguin Random House
  • Price: Rs. 499/-  
Set in Lahore, This House of Clay and Water explores the lives of two women. Nida, intelligent and lonely, has married into an affluent political family and is desperately searching for some meaning in her existence; and impulsive, lovely Sasha, from the ordinary middle-class, whose longing for designer labels and upmarket places is so frantic that she willingly consorts with rich men who can provide them. Nida and Sasha meet at the famous Daata Sahib dargah and connect-their need to understand why their worlds feel so alien and empty, bringing them together.

On her frequent visits to the dargah, Nida meets the gentle, flute-playing hijra Bhanggi, who sits under a bargadh tree and yearns for acceptance and affection, but is invariably shunned. A friendship-fragile, tentative and tender-develops between the two, both exiles within their own lives; but it flies in the face of all convention and cannot be allowed.

Faiqa Mansab's accomplished and dazzling debut novel explores the themes of love, betrayal and loss in the complex, changing world of today's Pakistan.

Behind the Book

About the Author (In her own words - Source: Goodreads Author's Bio)

My stories arise from discontent, disenfranchisement, the periphery. Mainly because I’ve grown up in a country that refuses to accept its own plurality, is determined to forget its history even as it flounders on the brink of self-destruction. I internalized the subliminal conflicts of daily life wrought with issues that should be clich├ęs but were my reality: patriarchy, lack of opportunity and gender discrimination. I, as an individual—woman, thinker, writer—was at odds with the limiting and reductive social constructs of my culture. And I read and wrote to make sense of everything around me.

Being an educated woman; being a writer, and writing in English particularly, make me a minority, and these realities have pushed me to resist labels, categories, and monolithic ideologies, in life and so perhaps my very identity is a site of resistance. How can I not write?

I’m a product of the textual multi-verse. Stories are my home, and literature in Urdu, Punjabi, English, as well as translated literature from around the world, have informed my intellectual landscape.

Writing was not a conscious choice. I write in English but my diction is steeped in cultures, languages and literatures that are not English. I feel privileged to have a voice with multiple and multifarious echoes that coalesce together to form new patterns. I have to write to stay in touch with who I am. I am most myself when I write.

Me thinks

For me, this book has to be one of the most awaited books in 2017. Everything from the title to the cover spelled elegance for me and attracted me to the book till I finally bought it for myself on my birthday last month. And then started the roller coaster ride of emotions for me!

In her debut novel set in Pakistan Faiqa Mansab captures the beauty of human relationships very well with its intricacies and fragility intact. Her words are more like lyrical prose, the power of the lucid narrative equally engrossing for a reader.Sample this -

"I was an utterance in absentia. I was a forgotten word, uttered and mislaid long ago. I was the word that existed because there was another word that was my opposite, and without it I was nothing. I gained meaning only by acknowledging that possible other."

"I'd morphed, altered, nipped and tucked away bits of my personality for so long, I no longer recognized myself. I feared that one day, even if I wanted to, I wouldn't be able to identify myself. I'd be forever trapped in an image of another's making, and there would be no escape because I would have forgotten to want to escape."

"In the nights though, I couldn't help but weave the golden cloth of my dreams. Each stitch from heart to thought, and thought to heart, was painful to bear, even if it was joyous at times. Because each thread was fraught with the fears of being broken midway, lost and never found again."

The book is full of such soulful lines which are moving and heart touching at the same time. In a story of love and longing, she takes you through the dusty streets of Lahore and narrates the story as if it is happening right there, in front of our eyes.This story though cannot be tagged a romantic love story, it is on that reminded me of Rumi and his words. " Lovers don't finally meet somewhere. They're in each other all along."

I have forgotten exactly where, but at some point in the book I had lost track of time and place, mindlessly drifting away along with her characters. The gorgeous prose of the book combined with powerful characters and captivating plot line makes for a gripping read, one that is un-put-downable in every sense.This book is what can be easily called a "scintillating debut" one that not only announces her arrival to the literary world but also one that leaves readers waiting in anticipation for her next works.

Strongly recommended to one and all, this is one book that can make you experience the power of love. 

Foodie Verdict

This book is like Khubani ka Meetha - divinely delicious

Source: Jopreetskitchen