Girl in white cotton (2019) is a mother-daughter story that explores their relationship in some uncomfortable areas of love that we have never known. The mother, Tara is a rebel, with a cause or without a cause, it is tough to find out. Antara is a complex character to understand. You will sympathize with her but there would be some revelations that will make you question her integrity too. Antara has never understood her mother’s decision as to why she walked out of her marriage to follow a guru, beg on streets or just moved in with a rather unknown artist.
About the author
Avni Doshi was born in New Jersey in 1982. She studied Art History at Barnard College, and completed her MA in the History of Art at University College London. Before writing fiction, Avni worked as a curator and art critic with a specialization in contemporary art from South Asia. She has been awarded the Tibor Jones South Asia Prize and a Charles Pick Fellowship at the University of East Anglia based on her manuscript Girl in White Cotton. Her writing has featured in Harper’s Bazaar India, Art Asia Pacific and Frieze. Avni lives in Dubai with her family.
Premise of the book
Antara has lived horrors of her life with her mother, Tara, the cause of which have been mostly her mother. Now she is happily married and settled with Dilip but a turn of events brings their lives at cross-roads once again. Tara has started losing her memory, slipping quietly into dementia and she becomes careless and forgetful. Anatara searches ways to make peace with their shared past, a past that haunts them both. With this erase the differences that exist between them or will again destroy whatever little peace is left in their relationship?
The story is about that.
Girl in white cotton actually treads along the blurred lines between familial devotion and deception. Tara and Antara are both competing with each other, manipulating things about each other. They both have hidden things from each other and lied repetitively but fate keeps them together due to some reason or the other but they never try to make peace with each other.
Ma doesn’t know. I never told her that for a portion of my childhood I was always hungry and have been searching for some fullness ever since. Talking has never been easy. Neither has listening. There was a breakdown somewhere about what we were to one another, as though one of us was not holding up her part of the bargain, her side of the bridge.Avni Doshi in Girl in white cotton
A troubled childhood keep Antara at bay. When she is sent to a Catholic boarding school, she finds it hard to learn and is kept under terror. All this because of her mother!
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She does not share a cordial relationship or any relationship in fact due to her mother. She does not blame her mother in words but her actions say a thousand words. Turn of events also reveal how Anatara has been manipulative about the past that they both have shared and even ;lied to her husband. That is when you see through the selfish and shrewd secrets.
Tara is suffering from dementia whose causes are unknown. She has always neglected her duties, as a daughter, a mother, a wife and even as a lover. She is too passionate for things and is willing to destroy everything in its pursuit. This is madness. This madness makes Antara afraid. Afraid that it will destroy her home, her marriage and eventually herself.
Towards the end of the book, the events show Tara engulfing the happiness and belonging of Antara into her own family!
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Review of the book
If I had one word to describe Girl in white cotton, it would be “unsettling”. This is the first book that I read for 2020 and I was in a mood to read some jolly things but this package came from HarperCollins around Christmas and I gave this books a try.
Sometimes, this book was too heavy for me to follow and I wanted to pick something else but there were mysteries hidden inside which made me pick this book again and again. The competitive and venomous relationship that Tara and her daughter, Antara share is something new that I’ve read. This kind of toxicity has been witnessed by me in the Western literature but it was new for me to see this in Indian literature. It’s not like this problem doesn’t exist, it’s just that it is not often talked about.
Although sharing a bittersweet relationship, they choose to stick around each other and that’s where the end begins. The story was haunting and gave me certain distaste in my mouth as I read it, that sick feeling in my stomach but I pursued it anyway.
Whether I’m glad that I pursued it or not, I don’t know!