Friday, February 11, 2011

Review: The Dowry Bride

The Dowry Bride
By Shobhan Bantwal
Publication date: September 2007

My review:

Megha Ramnath makes a horrifying discovery one night when she overhears her cruel mother-in-law Chandramma and her husband plotting to burn her alive because her father hasn't paid her dowry. She flees for safety to the only person she can think of who can help her: Kiran Rao, her husband's cousin. Hiding out in Kiran's apartment, Megha slowly begins to recover from her ordeal but as time goes by she finds a different kind of danger in the attraction they feel for each other. Now Megha must decide what her future will be even as Chandramma seeks to end her life.

Although she seems a little too naive and she makes some really dumb decisions over the course of the book, I admired Megha's determination to make a new life for herself in the end. She really breaks free of the restraints placed upon her by her family and her in-laws. As a love interest, Kiran is alternately likeable and controlling. He is there for Megha and does his best to protect her and equip her for life on her own but at the same time he can be a little condescending. I found him to be a somewhat contradictory character but a decent one. We see the story through his eyes as well as Megha's. His devotion is touching in the face of his cousin and family's mistreatment of her.

The villains of the book are Chandramma and her apathetic son. Unfortunately both are flat characters that come across as caricatures. Chandramma reminds me of the over-the-top villains found in some Bollywood films. An attempt is made to explain just why Chandramma behaves the way she does but it doesn't really work. The reader is left with no sympathy for her character or understanding of her motives save madness.

The Dowry Bride tackles the topic of bride burning and the dowry system in modern India. The book starts off suspensefully with Megha finding out about her evil mother-in-law's plan and fleeing into the night. It had the potential to be a moving novel about an important issue but instead it changes focus to the forbidden attraction between Megha and Kiran. There were times when the story devolved into a romance novel, describing just how much the characters lusted after each other. The writing style could be irritating, particularly the awkward dialogue and Kiran's voice in the novel. There is some good material here but the execution could have been a little better. Still, the story makes you feel for Megha and her plight. Her decisions in the end show how much she has grown.

Readalikes: Sharmila's Book by Bharti Kirchner, Brick Lane by Monica Ali, Sister of My Heart by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni,  A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, Veil of Roses by Laura Fitzgerald


  1. Whoa. I can't imagine. What a powerful topic. Sounds good.

  2. A very interesting book, but sorry to hear that it wasn't that well executed.

  3. Dumb decisions LOL. PS I miss your old layout missy! :)

  4. Ack to the caricture of the villian. I just read a book like that too, although the villian certainly wasn't trying to burn the bride alive! Does that really happen? Gosh.

    Also, could you please email me? My email to you keeps bouncing back and it's about a giftcard you won :)


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