Anjana Basus’s “Conspiracy of Aunts” is a delightful read about an – now almost extinct – anglicized Calcutta of chiffon saris and pearls and royal princeling-cum-smugglers wreaking havoc on the sentiments of young debutantes. At its centre are a group of invincible Aunts with stiff backbones, who are always hopeful about love, incorrigibly imaginative, inquisitive and just ridiculously funny. The book’s heart, Sreya, a romantic, capable and – like her aunts – principled protagonist, is divorced from her husband Shunu and now deeply repenting letting go of the love of her life. Much against her will some of the time, she is aided by the float of aunts in full sail in bringing back Shunu to the family fold, if only because he is indispensable to them.
“Conspiracy of Aunts” charmingly preserves the mores and workings of a privileged Calcutta, which is hardly recorded anymore, which however was the very backbone of a once enterprising city of possibilities; the centre of British India. If not for anything else, read this book for its careful preservation of a history of this charming and witty city. Watch out especially for the cushions episode, a delicious, tactful and yet hard as steel determined attempt by the old world not to be undone by the new. Wickedly hilarious.
About the Reviewer
Tupa Snyder thinks of poetry as a dwelling place and has a lifelong interest in how the lyric interprets belonging. The material of her poetry comes from growing up as a child of the remnants of the Raj in an isolated power plant in Calcutta, and her subsequent travel into the American midwest and the British west-country. She writes of isolation in her poems, which record fragmented, fictionalised selves that slip into a chain of being. Her early life and education were in India, a BA and MA in English Literature from the University of Poona, a second MA in Creative writing from Illinois State University and a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Exeter.
Her book “No Man’s Land”, a collection of lyric poems in forms ranging from sonnet crowns to prose poems, was published by Shearsman Books, Exeter, Devon, UK, in 2007. Her work has been represented in anthologies and many literary magazines in the UK and the US, including a full author feature in Spring River Poetry Review, Volume 31. She resides in Calcutta.