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Reviewed by Vincent Dublado for Readers' Favorite
With its cartoon-like illustrated cover, essay titles that do away with capitalization, and a style of word repetition for emphasis, The Reclusive Writer & Reader of Bandra is a charming and thought-provoking anthology of essays by Indian-born writer Fiza Pathan. Underneath the simplicity of her writing voice, Pathan’s compositions are pulsating with power and are unequivocally alarming. She reveals the harsh truths about her years growing up, forsaken by her father simply because she was not born a male. While she does not identify as a feminist, her writing has undercurrents of a pervasive societal norm that undermines the role of women despite worldwide espousal for gender equality. Growing up under the care of her mother, uncle, and grandmother, she found comfort in reading and writing. Libraries and bookshops became her sanctuary.
Pathan’s India is a landscape of contrasts. It is a land where wealth and poverty touch at the horizon. She describes the enticing cafés of Bandra as the rendezvous of affluent intellectuals where she eavesdrops on conversations by sitting down for a hot drink. On the same level, she gives us a red carpet walk toward the facets of Mumbai that became instrumental in her love affair with books. She appropriates the sanctum of libraries as her fortress, refuge, and treasure-house of wisdom and pleasure. Pathan is a dynamic essayist, writing with an intelligent appraisal while looking at the world fair and square. Yet at the heart of all her pronouncements is a struggle to overcome her unsettling relationship with her father. She does not come across as angry. The strength of The Reclusive Writer & Reader of Bandra comes from her sense of gratitude and mature treatment of her experiences.