Book Review | Gayathri Prabhu: If I Had To Tell It Again

Gayathri Prabhu is the author of the novels The Untitled (2016), Birdswim Fishfly (2006) and Maya (2003). She teaches literary studies at the Manipal Centre for Philosophy and Humanities.

To the author: If I had to tell it again is not just a piece of artwork but also a labyrinth of suffering, a very personal of course-where you hold the readers’ hand and tell them – it is going to be mostly dark, but do not be afraid, I’m going to take you places, and let’s unfold this darkness together.

This book has made me feel so much, that I cannot begin to describe but here’s my attempt to review your work…
The book ‘If I had to tell it again’ is the writer’s true story where she untangles all her memories of her father and the ones related to him, the ones that occurred because of the values planted and nurtured by the writer‘s father in her. When I started reading the book, I could sense that there was a strong feeling of denial where the author wants her reader to believe that she isn’t like her father was, and through narrations, after narrations, she tries to back that fact. However, as the Book progresses, somehow, always reaching back to all the dirt and all the hurt that she had bared as a child – almost like someone has been ruminating over this for years now. The burden of being the favorite daughter of an alcoholic father, the heaviness of always tiptoeing around him, the victim of a father who trusted other men, and loaded by an ambitious man’s expectations.
This book felt like a therapeutic process for the author where she unravels each story, she breaks down details like dissecting the human brain to a point which is not humanly possible unless done through words. Every word, every sentence of this book is extremely literary, you pick up from anywhere and you’d feel like you are reading a poem or prose. I usually underline or mark the figure of speech in any book with a pencil, all the metaphors, and similes that I especially get awed by. Strangely and beautifully, most of the pages of this book have at least a couple of lines underlined on every page. I would love to share with you the ones I love the most, it’s like going back to my literature classes but I have enjoyed reading this book and these are some of the sentences I’d quote:
When talking about her father –

Always the most entertaining in a gathering, hadn’t his loneliness over the answerable, his agony over lost dreams crushing?”

For her writing process, she says

when the fiction beneath my typing fingers mined deeper sorrows”

Talking about the story that my father told over and over about a girl who was hit by a truck,

he was running through the streets with this child bleeding into his shirt, his skin”

Her writing style is so simple And yet so complex-it’s comprehensible and at the same time has layers of depth and each time you read these lines, they leave you wanting for more.

When the men were gone, the walls of our house seemed to cool down, draw apart. Like saplings cleared to breathe the air and light”

 

we were now hemmed in by rum soaked evenings”

 

Learning to catch the wind currents as one migrates within the seasons. Mine was to be a slow expedition”

For what truly matters had was that I be celebrated, and that warmth of it spread to his bones”

When speaking about a handwritten maths tables and notebook that her father wrote to her and gave her while she was six or seven,

It was labour of pure love, infused with all the hope you had in me. I still have the little book it is in tatters, and it represents pain”

Somewhere that little book is a metaphor for her memory of her relationship with her father. This book represents an emotional journey, a therapeutic and spiritual, too. To be able to tell it again or perhaps to be able to say it finally must be liberating.
You must read it!


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