When I started reading No. 9 on the Shade Card, I was not sure if I would enjoy it. I liked the idea, and I was fascinated by the fact that we never seemed to learn the narrator’s name. We know her so well, but we don’t know her name – unless I just missed it because I got too involved in the story.
Yet, as I went on, I realised that I was enjoying the book thoroughly. I kept telling myself that I would read ‘just one more chapter’ and if that isn’t a sign of how engrossing the book is, I don’t know what is.
In fairness ads, models have a shade card, and their pale skin classifies them as number 1 on the shade card, and who does not want to be number 1, right?
But the narrator is number 9, and her Ajji is convinced that this is a problem. From yucky besan mixtures from the freezer to green pastes, the narrator is blackmailed time and again to try various home remedies to get her skin to be lighter, and it is through this that we realise what a beautifully complex relationship she has with her grandmother.
Yet, Ajji’s character was one of the two things that made me frown at the book. For me, the comments Ajji makes at the beginning of the book about the narrator’s complexion being her mother’s fault do not at all work with the close, wonderful relationship mother-in-law and daughter-in-law share at the end. I love Ajji, but I wanted her to be at least slightly likeable even as the story opens. Ajji forms the core, wringing the reader’s heart, making us laugh and cry, and weaving relationships amongst characters.
I also love the narrative voice and chuckled continually at how she calls her brother Murali ‘dear brother’ almost throughout. And dear brother is a wonderful character too, challenging stereotypes in his own way, and making us love him.
With a sportsy protagonist, a sensitive elder brother and a feisty grandma all brought together by the most powerful human emotion of all, love, No. 9 on the Shade Card makes for a fun, warm read.
|Title||No. 9 on the Shade Card|
|Rating (out of 5)||4|