Title: Faint Promise of Rain
Author: Anjali Mutter Duva
Release Date: October 7, 2014
Publisher: She Writes Press
Genre: Historical Fiction, Cultural Fiction (South Asia)
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
The year is 1554, and a daughter has just been born to a family of temple dancers, or devadasi, living in Rajasthan, India. There’s something different about this daughter, Adhira, as she seems to have a mystical connection with the gods and dance, and her father insists that Adhira should become a temple dancer, married to the deity and servant to a patron. Adhira’s mother wants more for her daughter, but does she have the strength to stand against tradition and her husband, especially as whispers of a new Muslim emperor mean that unwelcome change might be coming?
A gorgeous novel centered on a fascinating tradition of temple dancers, Anjali Mutter Duva brings 16th century India to life for the reader, expertly balancing characters and storylines, and filling the novel with the inherent uncertainty of the tumultuous time period.
Anjali Mitter Duva’s novel Faint Promise of Rain is a gorgeous historical novel that takes place within a little-known custom at Hindu temples: that of the devadasi. I knew nothing of these temple dancers, these women who were supposedly married to god, but in reality given to wealthy patrons (in all manners that implies). It seemed like a off-putting tradition, to say the least, but one I was curious to know more about, and Duva definitely delivered. If you’re looking to be swept away to another time and place entirely, Duva has you covered.
Adhira is at the center of Faint Promise of Rain, but there’s something different about her. The reader knows from the beginning that she is special, and that somehow, she will singlehandedly change things. For the better or for the worse, it’s not clear, but Adhira is both powerful and wise beyond her years. Duva excels at helping the reader understand this subtly, through narrative choices. There’s something entirely otherworldly about Adhira; readers aren’t sure the mortal world is the place for her.
There are many characters in Faint Promise of Rain, and Duva writes each of them very well. Whether it’s a major or minor character, it’s clear that Duva took her time creating each of these characters, imagining their lives and ensuring that, when she put them on the page, they’d be full of life. As a result, this book is rich with so many vivid personalities. There’s also a lot going on in Faint Promise of Rain; major storylines, minor storylines, overarching storylines. In the hands of a less talented author, this short book might feel cluttered, but Duva does an excellent job keeping everything straight and telling a compelling story, full of history, life, and the gorgeous color of India. If you’re a fan of historical fiction, then Anjali Mutter Duva should be an author you keep an eye out for, as I have a feeling she’s going to become a household name in South Asian fiction.