My review of Janice Pariat’s The Nine-Chambered Heart

qsnsplujdq-1511768338How do you read a book that leaves you gasping, having stolen your identity? What do you do when you take on all nine chambers as if they were always in your heart, were you?

This book by Pariat, had me in its grip from its very first chapter. I was completely taken.

When you begin the book, you wonder, and you read, and then you wonder some more, till you are wonderstruck at the author’s craft. She steals into your mind’s crevices, as she creates a complex character out of you, by cleverly using the second person narrative. How does one escape that, and yet keep your distance from such like? You can’t, and you won’t  because you are then curious to follow through, to the very end, of each Chamber as she draws you in, mystically.

The language employed is as simple as it is splendid.

Each chapter is linked, inextricably, to the next, but you don’t quite know where, coz it will suddenly refer to the past, and pow, you realize that you have shed the earlier skin, and adopted a new life, a quasi new identity! She seals you into the skin of the character, who is : mysterious, annoying, lovable, loving, adventurous, and almost wholly removed from the play at work, ever so often. She is as carnal, as she is spiritual- this nameless person at the center of the novel.

Pariat’s strengths lie in constantly surprising you, and inevitably draw you into the mind of this lover of feline creatures. You travel different lands with her, and yet you have no name, because we are all her.

I applaud Pariat’s novel, which had me in its hold in its infancy, in a manner of speaking,….every Chapter, let me tell you, has a leading name. Now you might wonder if the name is You, the reader, or the name of the new Lover. Go figure!




Love. Lust

He gently removed his hand from mine and scratched his nose. I stared at him as if he had hit me. My hand was wet with his perspiration and there was a noxious odour that pervaded the air between us. I felt lost, helpless and repulsed all at once. The promises had failed just like he had. His face was contorted and ugly. I wished at that moment I had never met him. So what if everyone knew. So what if my parents believed in us and after years of fending off his relatives, we had managed to convince everyone we were made for each other. So what if we were both rich and famous. The world was waiting for the News. So what.

I just couldn’t stand him anymore. There was no doubt left in my mind. I wasn’t pretending that I loved him. Maybe I had. I believed him when he moved within me, and I responded to his touch, his glorious groin. But somehow it just wasn’t there anymore, it just wasn’t. Waiting for it to reappear was no more an option.

Today’s a day I’ll have to live down. I must tell him right now. So what if he turns around and glowers for an instant- like a moth, it’ll die out too, the light in his eyes. I do believe that he believes he loves me and will continue to forever. I believe his belief. Never doubted his self-belief, as ironic as it sounds.

We haven’t made love in 40 days- it’s that period of the year, Ramzan. It’s hard to hang on to love when there’s no physical intimacy with this man. Did I just say love? I think I meant lust. He’s an attractive man they say. I’m beautiful they say and yet. What’s beauty outside got to do with all of this anyway. It’s lasted long enough. I’ll tell them. No, we’ll tell them. Let me say it out first.

“Munt, I think we should call it a day.”

“You going someplace.”

“Yes, I need to leave, get away.”

“Really? Now, right now. You’ve only just arrived.”

Hand reaches for mine. I move it away. He reaches for it nevertheless. I move it away.

“All not well?”


“C’mon now. Tell me all.”

“Not much to tell. I can’t.”

“You can’t?”

“Nope. Lust. Love. It’s all gone.”

Silence. The glowering, the dying- it all happens in an instant. Bitter-sweet contortions followed by silent tears.