I would love to get a novel published one day. And the best way to make that dream come true is a) to get writing and b) to do a lot of reading. Reading ‘Rule Breakers’ was me doing ‘b’. Why Preeti Shenoy? Because, she is a veteran (not by age) in the field of writing and because she is one of the 100 most influential women in India as per Forbes. And it’s because of what she writes and how she writes it.
I have read two of her books and I understand its because she weaves a story in understandable English while leaving the reader with a relevant message. It appeals to the masses. For instance in the ‘Hundred little flames’ which I read a few years ago, she brings out the pain and the angst of old age and clashes between three generations of fathers and sons. After I read it, I remember thinking, ‘Wow! How did she manage to do that?’ The language is simple (not heavyweight literature) and the storyline, uncomplex, and yet it hits the reader with a punch and stays with them Like it’s stayed with me even after so many years which is incredible since I’m not blessed with the best memory.
‘Hundred little flames’ had a male protagonist and was about bonding between a grandson who is in his twenties and a grandfather. It’s about treating the old with respect and understanding they too have dreams. The author does an amazing job of showcasing the intricacies of human relationships- the grey areas. ‘ The Rule Breakers’ on the other hand is a story about a 20-year-old girl called, ‘Veda’ who is married off even before she has completed college as her father has the responsibility of three younger daughters and a younger brother. For the first time she leaves the tiny town of Joshimath and goes to Pune, a city. Her in-laws agree to her studying and completing her graduation. However, with too many ‘rules’ to follow as a daught-in-law, she barely has time to study and she flunks her exams. She happens to meet a girl called, Kanika, who tells her that she teaches underprivileged children and asks her if she would be interested in helping. Veda joins eagerly and her husband supports her wholeheartedly, even getting his mother to agree. And from then on life takes a turn. I do not wish to divulge more for fear of giving the story out.
The book is divided into 4 sections- Part 1: The Rules, Part 2- Playing by the rules, Part 3- Bending the rules, Part 4- The Rule Breakers. The first section moves fast and talks of the protagonist, Veda’s life in her hometown, her family, the rules laid down by the father; the second talks about her new life as a married woman in the city, trying to adapt to the rules laid down by her mother-in-law, getting acquainted with her husband (since it is an arranged marriage); Section 3 is a tad slow and stretched- and jiust when one wonders what more can there be in the book, the story gathers pace and takes you on a roller-coaster ride; Section 4 is the culmination of the ride where you get down the roller-coaster feeling satisfied.
‘Rule Breakers’ does not have one single theme. It highlights the importance of following rules, breaking them when they become suffocating and speaking up for what you believe in. The author sheds light on various issues relating to India –
a) Importance of education
b) Pressure on children to study
c) Allowing daughters the freedom to choose who they wish to marry and when
d) Supporting daughters to achieve their dreams
d) Helping the underprivileged
e) Speaking for oneself
f) Acceptance of people’s sexual preferences, taboo of being a homosexual in India
Rate the book : I’m not going to rate the book because rating is subjective. Let it suffice to say that it’s worth a read if you want to get a peek into India and its ways. At the end of the book, you will have a better understanding of how examination papers are leaked ( I had no idea how it happened earlier :)), of homosexuals, of how horrid certain mom-in-laws can be and how difficult life can get for girls in an arranged marriage if they lack the courage to speak up.
The book would be for those in the 14 to 40 age group or anybody who wants a quick peek into what appeals to a majority of Indian readers. It is for non-readers who wish to begin reading- the language is fairly simple, direct and easy to understand.
The Rule Breakers by Preeti Shenoy is a novel that will empower you to be brave and stand up for yourself when things get rough. It covers complex themes, such as women’s equality, gender diversity, and inclusion – themes that are more than relevant in today’s world. Join Veda on her journey towards self-discovery and find out if she finds her silver lining in life by breaking, bending, or following the rules.
There are two kinds of people in this world—those who follow the rules and those who do not think twice about breaking them.
It’s the mid-’90s. Studious, smart and sincere, Veda harbours big dreams for the future. But her parents arrange a marriage for her, and the twenty year old discovers that she has no say in the matter.
Forced to leave behind an idyllic life in the hill town of Joshimath—filled with conversations and pleasurable times with her siblings, and her best friend, the handsome Suraj—she puts aside her ambitions and moves into a flat in Pune with an indifferent husband and a mother-in-law from hell.
Though brought up to be quiet and obedient, Veda chafes at the meaninglessness of her existence and struggles to cope with the unexpected loneliness.
About the author
Preeti Shenoy is one of India’s most popular authors. She has been consistently nominated for the Forbes List of the 100 Most Influential Celebrities in India. Her books have been bestsellers. Shenoy used to love reading as a child. She is also a self-taught artist who works with watercolours and oil. Some of Shenoy’s popular works include 34 Bubblegums and Candies, Life is What You Make it, The Secret Wish List, It Happens for a Reason, The One You Cannot Have, It’s All in the Planets, and A Hundred Little Flames.
‘The Rule Breakers’ is free on Kindle Unlimited and its’ Rs 265 for a paperback. So, if your interest is peeked reading the review, do give it a read. Below are a few excerpts from the book to help you get a feel of the language and the way wisdom is delivered through the story-
- She discovered there was a tonne of stuff there as well. It was bursting with old curtains, table-cloths and all kinds of knick-knacks, like a old statue, a clock that was not working, and many other things that were no longer being used. Veda decided to make a big pile of it and ask her mother-in-law if she could get rid of them.
- Veda sat in silence, waiting till he composed himself. She was filled with a wave of sympathy for Bhuwan, for herself, and for all the people in the world who desperately sought love. How fragile human beings were.
- She thought about how the problems we face are only relative in nature, to one another. When we have a problem, it seems big and important. But when we face a bigger problem, the one we faced earlier seems so silly.
- He put a hand on Veda’s head and said, ‘God bless you, beti.’ He stood up and walked out, leaving the others staring after him. It was the closest he would come to admitting that he was wrong and that his daughter deserved better.
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