Book Review: Mornings After by Tharun James Jimani
Book Name: Mornings After
Author: Tharun James Jimani
Number of Pages: 266
Overall Rating: 4/5
Reviewed by: Sai Prasanna P.
Story in a nutshell:
Sonya works in the corporate world whereas Thomas is a wandering writer searching for his next story. They start living together shortly after numerous encounters and correspondence through email. On the fateful night of the sexual assault of Nirbhaya, Sonya confronts a dangerous situation during a taxi ride back home with a drunk unconscious Thomas next to her. After blaming Thomas for not having protected her, Sonya questions whether the responsibility of women’s safety rests with men. In the aftermath of Nirbhaya’s death and her own personal nightmarish experience, Sonya abandons the security of corporate life to start a feminist webzine called Colour Purple.
Following the failure of the webzine, Sonya and her friends are confronted with a difficult choice when a Bollywood actor nicknamed ‘Bhai’ and ‘The Torso’ offers to promote the publication of the webzine in exchange for whitewashing his damaged reputation of portraying misogynistic roles.
Sonya gives up her job and Thomas who has never had a steady job and has been living on Sonya’s salary, feels burdened with the responsibility of contributing to their necessities. Thomas struggles to battle against his uncontrollable drug addiction and alcoholism which unleashes his dark side on Sonya.
…But of course people don’t understand cities the way cities understand people. Bombay will hug to her bosom, take to her grave, tales of love and despair, of life and longing, because cities are really just the secrets they keep. And because cities—and Bombay—are not dreams or abstractions or joy or melancholy, the easiest way to put yourself in a city’s shoes may just be to put yourself in the shoes of its residents.
The theme of the book is human relationships. The most intriguing aspect of the book, for me, is its realistic portrayal of characters. The characters in the book are a reflection of the educated urban Indian population leading complicated and chaotic lives. The book presents its characters as they are perceived by other characters. Sonya is a corporate employee and Thomas is an unemployed writer. It reveals the intimacies of Sonya and Thomas’ relationship, Sonya’s relationship with her family, Thomas’ relationship with his family, Sonya’s relationship with her friends, and Thomas’ relationship with Sonya’s friends. The author presents relationships as they are: entangled, intimate, comforting, and messy.
Discussions and debates in the book following the news coverage of Nirbhaya’s assault and death are significant, and necessary I feel, to provide an open platform for readers to confront, question, and challenge gender stereotypes and sexual boundaries. Sonya is a strong and independent working woman whereas Thomas is unemployed and lives in Sonya’s house on Sonya’s earnings. The name ‘The Torso’ brings to my mind Bollywood actor Salman Khan who is also known for portraying popular macho and misogynistic roles in films. The Torso chapters in the book reminded me of the recent Salman Khan’s controversial ‘I used to feel like a raped woman’ comment.
The title of the book is appropriate because it deals with Sonya and Thomas coming to terms with the consequences of their decisions and actions regarding their relationship. It is also a reference to the morning when India woke up to the news of Nirbhaya’s assault which sparked nation-wide protests against rape. In my perspective, the title emphasizes the breaking point in Sonya and Thomas’ relationship. Post-Nirbhaya, Sonya realizes that she cannot tolerate verbal and physical abuse inflicted by Thomas in his drunken state. Sonya represents Indian women who experience abuse yet continue to stay in abusive relationships. In the context of recent events, Sonya’s personal decision at the end of the novel to break up with Thomas becomes a political statement.
She touched his face and turned towards the door…This had always been the only way this could have ended, even if she didn’t know it yet. Besides, he realized with something approaching pride, Sonya had finally made the personal political. (p. 260)
The language employed in the novel is sophisticated and at times philosophical. The book is targeted at twenty-first century educated urban Indians. The novel begins and ends with Sonya encounter with Thomas but not as expected. In between chapters the novel contains excerpts from Thomas’ blog entries titled “The Girlfriend Chronicles” which are satirical and humorous. The novel is divided into chapters based on the different phases of Sonya and Thomas’ relationship.
Mornings After by Tharun James Jimani dares to discuss sexual assault as an everyday occurrence experienced by contemporary Indian women. It problematizes the definition of modern masculinity and why attributes normally associated with femininity are viewed as emasculating. Definitely worth reading!
This review was written by Sai Prasanna. She is a bibliophile still waiting to receive her Hogwarts letter, discover Narnia, wander around Wonderland, and go on an adventure with Gandalf. Cambridge graduate with a specialization in Children’s Literature. Children’s story writer and poet. Presently working as Content Associate writing stories to empower children at Going to School in Delhi.