The Mute Anklet by Radhika Nathan is a love story. Set in the times of Tipu Sultan, between a half native and half British girl & an English Army Major takes you through the landscape of Madurai, Fort St George. And finally through the sea route to England. There is a mystery angle in the story that the author has managed to maintain quite well till the last page of the book. To me, that angle goes down under. And the love story is what remains on the surface. Sometimes quite disjointed with the mystery angle that is almost an independent track. The Anklet that acts as the title remains a mute player across the storyline.
I found the story a beautiful portrayal of a love that blossoms between two people who grew up in different parts of the world. Those who were brought together more for political reasons and who discover each other on the way. It is also a story of a girl who was very unusual for her times. Born to an Indian mother and a British father. Adopted by another English gentleman. And grows up under the guardianship of the Maharaja of Madurai. What makes her different is her distinctly English looks because of which she becomes more of a loner. She meets this young English officer who obviously assumes her to be one of them but only to find out otherwise.
They get married as directed by Maharaja. And what follows is the sensitive depiction of the growing up of a relationship that is bound by the honor of marital vows. But has undertones of doubt and mistrust. Slowly they discover each other. Start caring for each other, craving for each other and finally they wait to admit the same. I quite enjoyed the convergence of their thought process, as they understood the other side of the table that the other person belonged to. The preconceived notions that they carried for each other’s community and personality, that melt away as they stay together even without communicating too much.
There is an attempt to depict the South India of early 18th CE. Through its temples, through its forts, through the technology used by the armies. Through the depiction of the relationship between the East India company and the native princely states. And through the landscapes. She attempted to include the native martial arts like Varnam. But like I said everything became subdued compared to the love story. Author has to a large extent managed to re-create the era. And her language most of the times stick to the times. Her introduction gave a feeling that she is going to talk about the rocket technology. And I kept looking for that part that never appeared – at least not to an extent, the introduction had built the expectation.
All in all, The Mute Anklet is an enjoyable read. If you like Historical Fiction, read it.
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Read the following book review of the author.