|Hema Macherla at Waterstones Nottingham|
When I read the cover of author Hema Macherla's novel - Blue Eyes - I instinctively knew that it was going to hook me from the first page, and it did. I found myself rushing home from work for a couple of nights just so I could bury myself in the sights, sounds and smells of India during a turbulent period in the country's history.
Set in Gandhi’s volatile India, the story opens with Anjali, aged eighteen, about to be burnt alive on her husband’s funeral pyre – the conventional widow’s fate.
After a dramatic escape, things go badly wrong and she embarks on an extraordinary, often terrifying, journey of discovery.
Saleem, Anjali’s childhood friend, is entwined in her destiny. As he searches for her, he is caught up in the violence surrounding India’s struggle for freedom.
At the heart of this fast-moving narrative is the love of two men for one woman.
Blue Eyes is a novel about one woman's fight for the right to be treated as a human being rather than as a chattel of her dead husband, something that can be discarded on his funeral pyre.
Anjali's journey from innocent child to a fully aware woman, who is shocked by the injustice meted out to other women because of old beliefs, will have you cheering for her with each page turn as she forges her own path under terrifying conditions.
The two men in her life, while well meaning, are complete opposites and both highlight different aspects of Anjali's fight to be recognised.
Saleem is trying to be different but he is so rooted in his culture that it keeps pulling him back as he tries to move forward.
Meanwhile, Saleem serves a man whom he is meant to hate but who dearly loves his country as much as he does and is horrified by what's happening to it, and this adds to Saleem's sense of conflict and confusion.
Blue Eyes is a novel about courage, about following your heart and being true to yourself when everything is set against you. It's evocative, thought-provoking and enriched with unforgettable characters. I loved it!
Publisher: Linen Press Books
I bought Blue Eyes when I met Hema Macherla at a book signing in Waterstones Nottingham.