The Dark Holds No Terrors – Book Review

Book: The Dark Holds No Terrors

Author: Shashi Deshpande

Genre: Fiction

Format: Paperback

The Story:

Sarita, a doctor by profession, holds on to her troubled past.  Her mother’s bitterness towards her for being unable  to save her younger brother from drowning follows her all her life. Later, as a grown woman, it continues in the form of  disownment  for choosing to marry the love of her life – a man belonging to the lower caste.

Years later, Sarita returns home – the home she had left as a young woman – to her father, to escape from her troubled marriage, wondering if it was her dead mother’s curse that her life turned out the way it did.

My review:

The story is about Sarita, who, as a little girl, doesn’t find favour with her mother – a resentment she vents out on her younger brother, their mother’s pet. With no friends to confide her turmoil in, the pent up feelings simmer within her for years together. To get away from her claustrophobic life at home, she decides to take up medicine at a Bombay college. Her father, much to her mother’s chagrin,  supports her in her decision and gives her the much-needed respite.

Shashi Deshpande has used the stream of consciousness to narrate the story of Sarita.  Peppered with memories, mostly unpleasant, from her childhood, her youth and  her married life, the story takes you along a journey that at once feels heartrending and perplexing.

How can a mother be so cruel towards her daughter? Why doesn’t the father find the courage to speak up against the injustice meted out to his daughter? are some of the thoughts that cross your  mind as you go further into the story. There are  moments when you wonder at the human nature – cowering in fear and at the same time cold and calculating, wicked and egotistic!

Escaping to a city to follow her dreams, falling in love with a man who, she thinks, will rescue her from her dark past,  and then realising that life’s miseries haven’t ended just yet, for the darkness has followed her in her married life, too. For how much respect and money can a poet earn as compared to his doctor wife? Sarita’s sorrow tugs at your heart strings.

Shashi Deshpande has done a fabulous job in her very first novel written in 1980. The language and the words chosen to portray the turmoil within the human mind and within the four walls of a simple, middle-class family in a small town are perfect. The atmosphere at Sarita’s home – her parents’ as well as her marital home – is almost tangible.

I liked the book, and I am sure you will like it, too. We may not have experienced the sorrow, the injustice Sarita did, but there are moments when one can relate to her story. The importance given to the son over the daughter, ego hassles that arise within a marriage, a domineering parent whose words wound the heart so, the scars stay fresh for years.  All of this and much more will touch you to the core, leaving you breathless.







Published by shilpagupte

Do you know the secret to living a happy life? Eat. Pray. Love. Or, watch what you eat, wish well for all and fill your heart with love! That's precisely what I try to do through my blogs: 'Metanoia', the wellness blogazine, and 'Fictionista', my blog for fiction and non-fiction. Welcome to my virtual homes!

21 thoughts on “The Dark Holds No Terrors – Book Review

  1. Lovely review, Shilpa. I’ve yet to read it. I was actually thinking of picking up Shashi Deshpande’s Shadow Play from my bookshelf for this month’s read. Loved the blurb and bought it last year. Will let you know about it as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I like books that span over long time periods. But this one seems rather sad. Is it a heavy read? Perhaps the writing style is the saving grace.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The writing style is different, if I may say so. And, it does get a bit heavy, but it still holds you in its grips and you keep turning pages to know how it all ends. Or begins!


  3. Do the answers to all the follies of life lie hidden in her heart, Shilpa? Need to read the book to find out…
    Thanks for introducing the book.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Not read this author ever Shilpa but seems like I should be. Maybe I will pick up one of her books this year as I need to read 10 Indian authors for a book challenge and this one might just be the right one to add to my list. Thanks so much for sharing this – great review!

    Liked by 1 person

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