Book Title: Secret Diary of an Incurable Romantic
Author: Chitrangada Mukherjee
Total Number of Pages: 280
Publisher: Fingerprint! Publishing
Publication Date: 1st September 2018
Genre: Women’s Fiction/ Humour/ Romance
11 pm: Heart’s pounding, hands shaking. Have these knots in my stomach. But drinking isn’t an option. Maa is sleeping with me. Baba in Lalitaji’s room. And she on the sofa.
Want to step into the toilet, take one swig, and then go directly to sleep. How the hell will Maa know? I mean she’s sleeping like a log. No, no, shouldn’t. What if she wakes up? She’s a light sleeper, after all.
11.30 pm: No wine. Or vodka. Terrible, terrible night. When will they go back to Kolkata and let me be?
11.32 pm: Chhi . . .Chhi . . . How selfish am I? My parents, one with a heart condition, spent thousands on flight tickets and landed in Chennai. Why? Because they wanted to spend time with their widowed daughter. And what does the daughter want? To sneak into the toilet and take one good swig of wine. Shame on her!
Okay, now I’m being over-dramatic.
Meet Madhubala Ray a thirty-year-old brand-spanking-new widow in Chennai.
She lives with her seventy-year-old mostly-silent MIL—whose name she can’t remember, teaches Social Science to bratty teenagers, and suddenly has a life filled with unpredictable men, catty colleagues, a bisexual best friend, and . . . heart-wrenching memories of her late husband.
How does she deal with all of that?
By baring it all, in her diary. Join this oddball-widow who always keeps it real as she gives an honest account of a young North Indian working woman in Chennai, who tries to survive a tragedy through wine and vodka, her quirky sense of humour, and refuses to give up on love. Despite its oddities. The question is: does she survive and find love, again?
It is not often that I have the opportunity to read something upbeat, mirthful and diverting. Grappling for ‘Secret Diary of an Incurable Romantic’ is a decision that I am proud of. The book is what the title tells it is. The novel resembles an epistolary format of writing, except that it is a compilation of diary entries and not letters.
There is really not much to discuss about the book since it is unambiguous in its construction. The prose is lucid, direct and easily accessible. For a reader, there are only very few possibilities to read between the lines. For most of the novel, the authorial voice is definite. In a way, it surely does constrain the reader’s ability to interpret differently.
‘Secret Diary of an Incurable Romantic’ follows Madhubala on her journey as a young widow succeeding the years after the demise of her husband. During these years, she befriends alcohol and occasional dalliances are definitely up her radar. Before you go on and act as an adjudicator, let us not forget that a woman has needs just like a man does. That being said, different people have different coping mechanisms against their sorrows. To say the least, it is not improper to want to be happy.
Living with her mother-in-law sure does put a limit on Madhu’s alcohol consumption. Though a closet alcoholic, she does find it difficult to control her urges but she certainly doesn’t want to alert her mother-in-law. This first person account of Madhu is not supposed to be depressing or saddening. It is quite the opposite— uplifting and spirited. There are numerous other characters depending on the scenes but at the heart of the novel, it is about Madhu’s life and her chance at finding love once again. Mukherjee did justice with her protagonist. Madhubala turned out to be a well-rounded character in every possible way.
Mukherjee has used wit and humour thoroughly throughout the novel. It was chucklesome ride for me. From the setting to the narration to the scenes, the humour ranges from self-deprecating to irony to hyperbolic and everything in-between. It is a very modern novel in the fact that it favours modern families, circumstances and real-life characters.
As I have mentioned earlier, this is a very simplistic novel so there is little to no surprising elements. Though there are dialogues and scene shifts, the novel unfortunately only enfolds the quotidian life of Madhu. Chitrangada did manage to fill the pages with her sense of humour but I cannot deny that I was left hoping and craving for something more interesting to happen in the book.
This book is a very light read despite the themes it deals with. Packed with humour and comic elements, ‘Secret Diary of an Incurable Romantic’ is a refreshing book to read.
Recommended to everyone out there.
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