The Nine-Chambered Heart
Author: Janice Pariat
Publisher: Harper Collins
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Blurb (as on Goodreads):
‘You, though, are as beautiful as light splitting through glass.’ Nine characters recall their relationship with a young woman – the same woman – whom they have loved, or who has loved them. We piece her together, much as we do with others in our lives, in incomplete but illuminating slivers. Set in familiar and nameless cities, moving between east and west, The Nine-Chambered Heart is a compendium of shifting perspectives that follows one woman’s life, making her dazzlingly real in one moment, and obscuring her in the very next. Janice Pariat’s exquisitely written new novel is about the fragile, fragmented nature of identity – how others see us only in bits and pieces, and how sometimes we tend to become what others perceive us to be.
“So you’re saying the greatest love of your life could’ve been….. anyone?”
Haven’t we all heard of someone via someone else and made a mental note of what kind of person he/she might be? This is exactly what’s going on in Pariat’s The Nine-Chambered Heart. Nine stories describing the same person, from the mind (or rather, heart) of people who were, briefly, a part of her life, a part that was emotional and sometimes, challenging.
The POV changes with every story and we get a glimpse of a different side of this ‘unnamed’ girl. The backdrop keeps changing too, as the person is at one place only for a short time. The character sketch that the author wanted to portray happens extremely smoothly and we get to see the person in different scenarios and the varied emotions that are such an important part of her personality.
The writing style is observational and is purely based on what these different people see when they are with her and how their lives differ from the ordinary, dull days. These observations form the basis of her character development and they are both intricate as well as exhaustive.
“You have a heart as open as the sky.”
The author definitely knows ‘how much’ information needs to be given out at any particular point. Each story maintains a steady flow and recurring terms keep us connected to the plot. (such as ‘a country without a river’ )
“I will remember you by this, always, that you are immensely giving.”
There’s another thing that I noticed when it comes to the themes the author decided to explore and that is ‘Love’. Love for a person, for a place, the love for exploration and adventure. The feeling of love has been an essential part of all the stories, especially how it was a lingering feeling and how it made people better or worse.
“I know you are kind, my love, but prone to spells of strange quietude”
If I had to state something that I hated about this book, it would be the ‘almost’ poetic ending to this book. The author provides us with bits and pieces of information about this mysterious girl and leaves us with a feeling of what else could this free-spirited girl be like and that, my friend can be really frustrating. I have wanted to hate the protagonist for quite some time now, but then she’s like the wind- free and drifting whichever way she wants. Now, isn’t that something we all want?
I will read this book again sometime later because this is the kind of book that would give out something different each time it’s read.
“In fiction: we find the predictable boring. In real life: we find the unpredictable terrifying.” -Mokokoma Mokhonoana
Raw, deeply engrossing, and full of surprises, The Nine-Chambered Heart is a biography of a girl based on the way the world sees and perceives her to be.
Would you pick this one up? Have you come across any other similar kinda novel?