Kintsugi – named after the ancient Japanese art of mending broken objects with gold – is a novel about young women breaching boundaries, overcoming trauma, and challenging the social order. And about men surprised by women who are unconventional, unafraid and independent.
It is the story of Meena, rebellious and unexamined, and Yuri, as complex as Meena is naive. Of Hajime, outsider to two cultures, and Prakash, unable to see beyond his limited horizons. It is also the story of Haruko who has dedicated herself to her art, and of Leela who is determined to break gender roles and learn the traditional gold-craft of her community.
Set between Japan and Jaipur, Kintsugi follows the lives of these characters as they intersect and diverge, collide and break and join again in unexpected ways. The result is a brilliantly original novel as profound as it is playful, as emotionally moving as it is gripping.
“Broken can be beautiful too”. It is what perfectly sums up Kintsugi: A Novel by Anukrti Upadhyay. Each character is broken. Some recover. Some do not. There are grit and determination of Leela fighting patriarchy, the teenager who you root for. The melancholy surrounding Meena and Yuri dealing with broken family bonds. Haruko and Hajime who are perennially considered outsiders and struggle to belong. And finally, Prakash who adheres to the demands of the society, at the cost of his own happiness.
The book grabs you from the word go. The cover is beautifully designed. The writing style is lucid and descriptive. The author is gifted in the art of visualization through her writing. The lanes of Johri Bazaar in Jaipur come alive. The crowds, the haveli, and the food. So do the colors and a slower pace in Japan. The mountains and the forests.
“Not all vessels are meant to hold water, some are for allowing water to seep away.”
The author picks on the topics of patriarchy, mental illness, homophobia, abandonment, and the struggle to belong. Each is well woven into the narrative and does not feel superficial or added on. In a way, the book is quite Murakami-esque. It makes you stop and ponder. And stays with you long after you have finished reading it.
As someone who has studied design, reading about the process of jewelry design was a treat. Getting inspired by the mundane. Losing the sense of time when working on a design. I could relate to the designer in Haruko. Recently, the author gave us a peek into the different jewelry styles described in the book – meenakari, jadau, and thewa (a more or less lost art). Check out the ornaments below.
Although it worked fine for me, some readers may have an issue with the liberal use of the vernacular. That said, translating each term, whether Indian or Japanese, does take away the charm.
Kintsugi is a delightful read about the intricacies of human emotions. I enjoyed reading it and would highly recommend it. It is a must-read.
About the author
Anukrti Upadhyay has post-graduate degrees in Management and Literature, and a graduate degree in Law. She writes in both English and Hindi. She stunned readers and critics alike with the twin novellas Daura and Bhaunri in 2019, and delighted Hindi readers with short story collection Japani Sarai.
This review has been written as part of the Blogchatter Book Review Program. I was offered the book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
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