Neither here nor there
I started reading this book because a friend passed it on to me saying she had quite enjoyed it.
Why I continued reading till I reached the end I have no idea, but I did.
The Vague Woman’s Handbook is a brilliant and attractive but basically misleading title. It is not a handbook. I looked for, and didn’t find, guidelines for instructional use of how to cope with a woman’s vagueness – your own or others’ – or turn an asset into it, or anything related to instructional use or application of women’s vagueness.
Then, there is a basic dichotomy in the content. It is a contemporary story, with a number of progressive features. The young couple – neither is even 24 yet – are setting up a cosy establishment all their own and are coming to terms with a life of their own choosing. There’s a teeny bit of wish fulfilment here because they have broken away from their parents’ oppressive demands and are experiencing exhilarating, though sometimes painful, independence. I liked the other main character in this book – an endearing woman more than twice the age of our heroine, and the fact that the two became best friends.
However, the other basic fabric of this book is its horribly archaic language. Compressed between the fab title and the trendy author photo is an alarmingly large collection of yesterday phrases and usages. Can anyone in post-1991 India relate to the concept of “church mice”? With qualifiers like “for one” and “not exactly”; expressions like “voila” (used seriously and not as parody); an overdose of coy parentheses, exclamation marks and italics used for emphasis, I felt as if I’d suddenly arrived in Blyton-Wodehouse Wonderland.
There’s something else that rather alarmed me about this book. It’s a story about a young married couple – and for heaven’s sake they never have sex! Not even the slightest hint of it. Perhaps if this book was written specifically for a readership of under-tens, it could work. Otherwise I’m sorry to say this young couple is a very poor role model for the younger generation :-)
This author has the skill to create a plot, weave believable characters, establish a good beginning, middle, and end – and even look glamorous in a jacket photo. I sincerely hope that her language and situations mature to produce more realistic fiction of a higher literary quality in future.