You Beneath Your Skin by Damyanti Biswas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
You Beneath Your Skin is a chilling debut by Damyanti Biswas--a psychological thriller that delves deep into dysfunctional families, broken relationships, drug abuse, and violence, all wrapped up in an unpresuming police procedural set in Delhi. There's also the relentless Delhi politics that keeps Jatin Bhatt in a loveless marriage, receiving dirty money and participating in cover-ups for minister's, whilst staying friendly with the Union Home Secretary and his powerful family, so that he can keep Commissioner Mehra, his father-in-law and boss, happy in hopes that he will be able to succeed him as Delhi's Chief of Police. If that's not enough, Damyanti throws into the mix complications from Anjali's son's autism, ramping up the tension, especially with the hide and seek that she plays with the truth.
The heart of this story, though, isn't the politics or the crime or the misadventures in love, though all these provide an entertaining though heart wrenching background. It's the poor women trapped in poverty who are subjected to one of the most cruel and debilitating attacks of all--acid attacks. Damyanti brings sympathy to the women caught in this plight through no fault of their own. The fault lies squarely with the men who hold women's lives to no value. In that aspect, this novel is a little sordid--there's no escaping the dirt and squalor, or the horrible crimes of rape and mutilation in this novel.
I love Damyanti's code switching, the way she brings out the different accents of her characters in their Indian English alongside their use of Hindi phrases. I tend to skim over the longer phrases (some of which may or may not be Urdu poetry?), but I'm sure those who speak Hindi and Urdu would appreciate it. She deftly includes translations, and the repetition of certain key phrases is also very helpful.
All in all, You Beneath Your Skin is a thrilling read, full of surprising twists and turns.
You Beneath Your Skin released last week. Get your copy from Amazon today!