Books that deal with love are dime a dozen. Some are sad and melancholy; some are joyful and have happy endings. No matter how we tend to look at it, we can agree upon one fact – Love is like a vicious feline. Sometimes a furry kitten with fur so soft, we can cuddle up and play with it endlessly; sometimes a roaring tiger with fangs & claws drawn, ready to take a pound of our flesh for whatever reasons it deems right. And one never understands what it is – is it a kitten, is it a stray cat or is it the crouching tiger?
Janice Pariat’s The Nine Chambered Heart is a book on love. It is the simple insight of how a few people loved one woman in all her forms, through her highs and her lows. It is a book on how Love, in all its feline glory, will always leave behind a mutated version of ourselves once it’s done with us. It can be as insignificant as the art teacher who is driven to distraction with a recalcitrant student and introduces her to origami. A skill she manages to carry with her through every step of her life, a tool under her belt at times of need and compassion.
I wish I could write about how much I enjoyed the writing in The Nine Chambered Heart. But anything I write will be a terrible take on it. Janice Pariat has worked magic into the words in this book of hers. She gives us only what she wants to and keeps the rest of it hidden behind a mystical screen. There were times when I longed for more, for the words to continue. But I knew I would be content with what I read. Then there were little gems like “But what a waste of a moon” and you know and feel exactly what the author wanted you to. Perhaps I shall love this book for another reason – for what it has made me feel.
All the perspectives in The Nine Chambered Heart are from someone about how they have loved this one woman. We never come to know of her or her thoughts. Of course, there are the insights into her childhood or her career, but a person is more than all that. There is also the little glimpse of how each of them has left a mark on her – her leaving an origami bird outside the door or the painting of a tiger that she takes with her. We all have these little reminders around us, from being loved or having loved. Sometimes it is as abstract as a smell, sometimes it’s a trinket but none of us can deny its existence.
My personal favourite amongst the lot will have to be The Caretaker. It is perhaps the one story that we will all relate to – of being the one unable to leave or the one being left behind. I shall leave you with a quote from this book that I find appropriate for the topic and the travesties and ravages of Love…
‘I could’ve died’
‘No, my silly one.’ … ‘You will live forever’
I recommend this book to everyone who has loved, fallen out of love, or basically had anything to do with Love in any form. It was such a joy to read and one can safely relish the lingering aftereffects.
* The likening of Love to a feline might seem a bit cliche, I could have compared to a dragon or something else. But for The Nine Chambered Heart it makes sense. *
My rating: 5 of 5 stars