Book review | Small Days and Nights by Tishani Doshi


Author: Tishani Doshi

Genre: Literary fiction, Drama

No. of pages: 262

Published by: Bloomsbury Circus India 

Published on: 4th April 2019

Format: Paperback 

My rating: ★★★★★

Escaping her failing marriage, Grace has returned to Pondicherry to cremate her mother. Once there, she finds herself heir to an inheritance she could not have expected - a property on the beaches of Madras, and a sister she never knew she had: Lucia, who was born with Downs Syndrome and has spent her life in a residential facility.

Grace sets up a new and precarious life along the coast of Madras, with Lucia, the village housekeeper Mallika, the drily witty Auntie Kavitha and an ever-multiplying litter of puppies. But Grace's attempts to play house prove first a struggle, then a strain, as she discovers the chaos, tenderness, fury and bewilderment of life with Lucia.

Luminous, funny, surprising and heartbreaking, Small Days and Nights is the story of a woman caught in a moment of transformation, and the sacrifices we make to forge lives that have meaning.

This book is one of its kind. I mean how should I even describe it. This book is about celebrating family, celebrating sisterhood, and above all celebrating independence and life choices. 

Tishani Doshi sketches out the unceremonious life of Grazia/Grace. Grace, born in a biracial family, her father being Italian and her mother being Indian, has grown up seeing her parents fight with each other a lot, and then reconciling just as fast. Grace has always felt a loss in her life, a loss of constancy. She had neither been too close to her mother nor her father. She had always wanted a constant partner, may be a sibling or a best friend. 

Only years after, when Grace returns to Madras from America, on the news of her mother's death, she finds out that she has been bestowed with a huge property with the endless Bay of Bengal in front of it and a sister with Downs Syndrome. Grace goes back and forth time, reminiscing the things that went wrong in her life, and the relationships that turned sour. 

Small Days and Nights traces Grace's story as she revisits all those places in Tamil Nadu she grew up in, with her sister (who never got that chance as she grew up in a facility for special and abandoned children), revisiting her estranged father in Italy and all those escapdes in her childhood. 

This book is also about growing up, as a human being. Grace, with her series of past lovers and newly made friends, goes through a mature growth in the novel. We also see Grace's relationship with her sister getting a strong foothold as the days passes by and how she embraces each and every obstacle of her new life with a fervent optimism. 

Lovers of family fiction/Literary fiction, this one's for you. 

This book is like a song. It starts out with a rush, then there's a bridge in the middle, a slowly creeping sadness, and then it rushes again, but this time with a built up plot and ends in a beautiful harmony. Tishani Doshi has created a sad masterpiece, her writing style forged with melancholy, of childhood and adulthood.

Can I simply say that I loved this book? And so you SHOULD read it. 


Tishani Doshi was born in Chennai. She is an award-winning poet, journalist, essayist and novelist. Doshi has published seven books of fiction and poetry, most recently Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods, which was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award 2018. She is the recipient of an Eric Gregory Award for Poetry, winner of the All-India Poetry Competition, and her first book, Countries of the Body, won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection in 2006. Her debut novel, The Pleasure Seekers, was shortlisted for the Hindu Literary Prize and longlisted for the Orange Prize and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Doshi is also a professional dancer with the Chandralekha Troupe. She lives in Tamil Nadu, India, with her husband and three dogs.


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