The Circle of Karma by Kunzang Choden is the first novel written by a woman in Bhutan. Using simple language and straightforward plot line, the story weaves around Tsomo and her literal and metaphorical journey from her childhood to her old age.
Set in the mid-20th century Bhutan, The Circle of Karma‘s protagonist is Tsomo, who lives in Tang valley in Bumthang (one of the districts of Bhutan), is burdened with household chores and envious of her brothers getting a religious education from her scholarly father, who was a gomchen (a religious scholar/monk).
She deeply loves and respects her mother. She fears her father. She wants to learn to read and write but being a girl, she is not allowed to do so.
Her observant nature though allows us a glimpse into several cultural aspects around her such as the nature of society and its bias towards women or the rituals that happen around her in her society.
If you have been following The Book Cafe posts, you may have noticed about how I have been trying to read more female writers and how many of their novels have had a sense of growth and change in the female characters which makes them qualify as a bildungsroman novel. A bildungsroman novel can be loosely defined as a coming of age novel focusing on the protagonist’s formative years or a novel that highlights a physical or psychological growth and change.
Often, these bildungsroman novels have a male protagonist and their specific growth. But in this post I would like to highlight my top 5 picks of female bildungsroman novels!
Come take a look!
5. In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez:
This is a heart wrenching true story of three Mirabel sisters who became legends because of their defiance during the gaunt Trujillo regime in Dominican Republic. It is not just about their rebellious years but also about their innocent childhood, their family life and how they grew into the symbols that they have become today.
Read my full review here.
4. Circle of Karma by Kunzang Choden:
This one is a debut novel in English from the renowned Bhutanese author, Kunzang Choden and she takes us to join Tshomo’s journey towards her acceptance of her self and her spiritual love.
No there is no such official thing but there ought to be!
Similar to how I ended 2018 on a unique note of reading The Maharajah’s Household, I had wanted to start 2019 on a diverse note (that being one of my bookish goals in 2019) and I did that with Tiger Hills.
Slowly, January became an all female authors read and I loved it!
Hopefully can carry on this streak but being an English Studies teacher it is difficult to stay away from canonical male authors for long. But lets see how far this female writers’ sojourn goes.
So let’s take a look at the books I read in the month of January:
- Starting off first with Tiger Hills, which was a historical saga of love and family set in the 20th century Coorg. Marred only by a few difficult to believe coincidences, Tiger Hills is a lovely and engaging read.
- Next on the list was a quick read of Dungri Garasiya folktales collected by Marija Sres and published by Zubaan Books titled, First There was Woman.
- Next came Kunzang Choden’s novel, The Circle of Karma, which is a gritty Bhutanese novel of Tsomo and her growth from being a cast out wife to a strong person who chooses to let go and carve her own path no matter how tiring that may be. This is a must read not in the least because it is the first novel to be written in English in Bhutan but also because it gives you a unique glimpse into the Himalayan country.
- Jeannette Winterson’s Sexing the Cherry will take you on a fluid time ride and make you question all gender assumptions.
- The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak was the only bestseller among all the January reads. It was also the only one that disappointed a bit and failed to live up to the hype.
- The last two for the month of January were again Indian novels. One was K.R. Meera’s The Gospel of Yudas which told Yudas and Prema’s melancholic tale of love and betrayal amidst Kerala’s Naxal movement.
- Annnnnnddddddddd, drum rollllllll, the last one was The Patiala Quartet by Neel Kamal Puri which was a beautiful story of siblings and their trials and tribulations in small town Patiala wracked by its royal past and growing Khalistan movement.
So that makes a total of seven books in the first month! Amazing!
All the links for the books’ reviews are given within the blog post itself.
So those were my January Reads! What books did you read in the month of January? Share in the comments below!