Or perhaps it should read The Broken Girl in the Mirror? Savita Kalhan’s new novel is – as Bali Rai is quoted on the cover – ‘harrowing and touching.’ Although to me it wasn’t as scary as Savita’s The Long Weekend. Equally upsetting, yes. And the fact that what happens to her Jay, happens to girls all over the world, is appalling and shocking.
Jay and her mother have fallen on hard times and have to move in with their Indian relatives. Jay’s aunty has very strict, Indian, ideas of what is suitable and what is not. It’s just a shame she forgot to bring up her eldest in a decent way, instead of spoiling her first child, and being incapable of finding fault.
And it’s because Jay’s mum is both polite and grateful, as well as very busy with her work, her studies, and being a slave to aunty’s every need, that she doesn’t have time to see what happens to her 15-year-old daughter. It’s this that makes the crime (rape) possible, and also the reason Jay has stopped trusting her. Because Jay has repeatedly asked if they can leave this house.
Maybe it’s because of their Indian background that the family can turn a blind eye to rape, but I imagine this could have happened to any teenage girl. Jay is quite western in her approach to life, but can see the dangers of losing people’s good opinion if they knew she’d been raped, and she also understands the real danger of a forced marriage, which her white, English pals don’t.
I’d been afraid of a worse second half to this story. Considering how bad it got, I was relieved that there were some sensible adults around Jay. But it still doesn’t take away the trauma of what happened to her.
I’d like to think that this book will give courage to girls in a similar situation.