Sunday, 18 March 2018

Book Review: When I Hit You, Or A Portrait of a Writer as a Young Wife

Title: When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of the Writer as Young Wife

Author: Meena Kandasamy

Pages: 256

Publication: 4th May 2017 by Atlantic Books

1 line synopsis: a brutal look at domestic abuse within a marriage

TW: domestic abuse, rape


This is one of the most harrowing and brutal books I’ve ever read. As a reader, you start by knowing that the unnamed narrator gets out of the horrendously abusive marriage, but that does not make the subsequent reading experience any easier. Nevertheless, it is an incredible book that is fully deserving of a place on the Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist.

As soon as she is married to her professor husband, the couple move away to Mangalore, where he begins to gradually cut her off from her circle of friends and restrict her everyday movements. The writing really reflects how claustrophobic the narrator feels and as a reader you begin to feel claustrophobic yourself, but I loved how to counteract this she uses the freedom of writing, for instance writing her story as a film. On the topic of writing, I could not stop highlighting quotes as I was reading; I felt like there was so much to unpick and analyse and I knew from the beginning that they were something I wanted to revisit in the future.

There are some really important issues connected to domestic abuse that are brought up throughout the traumatic tale of this young writer, for instance the misogyny of ‘liberals’ and how abuse isn’t restricted to those of the uneducated, lower classes. Something that particularly struck me was despite how well-educated the narrator is and despite knowing that she should run away and get out of the marriage, she still didn’t feel like she could and she still justified staying because “the you wanting to leave today might be the you who thinks you should have stayed tomorrow”.

I didn’t know that When I Hit You is a work of autofiction until I was reading this review on The Writes of Woman, but it’s now painfully obvious that to write something as unflinching as this book you would have had to have some experience with the abuse described. Hopefully, this will inspire more conversations surrounding domestic abuse and I can only hope that it gains wide success after being longlisted for the Women’s Prize and the Jhalak Prize. I’m definitely going to be returning to it in the future, despite how much of a difficult read it is, because it’s certainly a necessary one. I gave it 5 out of 5 stars.

If you've read When I Hit You, please do let me know in the comments below. Also, for more of my reviews, check out my book review catalogue.