Since the last couple of months, I’ve been seeing this book – Poonachi by Perumal Murugan, doing the rounds on Instagram. I also found a few of my blogging friends reading and going gaga over it. Poonachi is also shortlisted for the JCB Prize for Literature. However, I still didn’t pick up the book (from my Kindle because I hoard books) until last week, when a dear friend and I decided to buddy read the book.
It was a drag in the beginning and I wondered what the hype was all about. But then, that’s the beauty of the book. Read to know how Poonachi became one of the best reads of this year for me.
“Once, in a village, there was a goat. No one knew where she was born. The birth of an ordinary life never leaves a trace, does it?”
This is the story of a weak and fragile black goat. She is gifted to an old couple by a mysterious man. They have a few goats of their own but decides to keep this one as well. From day one, the old woman grows fond of the little goat and names her Poonachi. She takes care of her well-being but Poonachi struggles to survive. The nanny goats of the herd refuse to suckle her, she is attacked by a wildcat and moreover, the couple is poor to feed her delicious food. But then, this is the story of her survival.
Poonachi by Perumal Murugan: Book Review
Once in a while, a book comes along that tugs at your heartstrings. Poonachi is that experience for me. From being a drag to an unforgettable book, Poonachi has won my heart.
So, what’s so special about it?
Is Poonachi like Animal Farm?
The story has anthropomorphized goats as the central characters. Dig in deeper, you will understand that the book is about the Government’s supremacy over citizens, the discrimination, thus making it a political satire. It speaks volumes on the tough times and lives of ordinary people. As the translator mentions in the end, it is an animal story for adults.
An emotional rollercoaster
The book Poonachi starts with a bang and it is unputdownable. While I mentioned that it was a drag in the beginning for me, it was because there weren’t any action-packed sequences. But make no mistake. You will start feeling for the puny little goat in no time. You’ll find yourself laughing with her and shedding tears during her times of struggle and loss. The author has also beautifully portrayed the emotions with shades of fear, longing, and love.
Of ordinary life
You find comparing your life with that of Poonachi’s, especially if you are a woman. Poonachi’s life reflects the lives of women in so many levels – the whole stigma of being a woman, the helplessness and betrayal to top it all. Her yearning for her one true love is haunting. And yet, she has to live on the whims and fancies of others. You get attached to the fun, playful Poonachi; you’ll feel proud of her little achievements, and on realizing how humble and down to earth she is. You are left with a heavy heart when you find her struggle for basic survival.
It is also about motherhood, of friendships and deep bonds.
The author has subtly incorporated what we are capable of doing in the name of superstitions and irrational beliefs. He also shows us how society can change its colors when situations favor them.
It’s a simple story. It’s not fast-paced or elegant, in most places. But I guess, that is how the author wanted it to be – a raw portrayal of human emotions and the hierarchical bureaucracy of local authorities. Though a translation from Tamil, it is done in good taste. There is humour in the right places and the blunt and honest scenarios leave you glum. The language and writing are simple, making it an easy read. The names of all the goats in the book are adorable. I loved the bright red cover page featuring the black goat.
It’s Poonachi’s story and Poonachi will remain etched in your heart for years to come.
With a mere 179 pages, this book will take you on an unforgettable journey.
“They talk about the highs of toddy and liquor, but those are not highs at all. Real intoxication comes from talking. The moment it crosses a limit, we forget everything.”
“Speak softly, sir. The regime has ears on all sides.’
‘There’s an old saying that the regime is deaf.’
‘It’s deaf only when we speak about our problems. When we talk about the regime, its ears are quite sharp.”
Do I Recommend?
I think everyone should read this book. It’s a deep tale and will shake you to the core.
Shining 5 on 5!
|Details of the Book
|Title: Poonachi: Or the Story of a Black Goat
|Author: Perumal Murugan, N. Kalyan Raman (Translator)
|No: of Pages: 179
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