Book Review

The Granddaughter Project by Shaheen Chisti

Publisher: James Hemingway | Genre: Historical Fiction

"Shaheen Chisti does an amazing job at weaving timeless feminist ideas together with themes like cultural differences, the struggle with domestic abuse, feminism, education and literacy, violence, and poverty; and set them during the world's greatest disasters."

Title: The Granddaughter Project

Author: Shaheen Chisti

Publisher: James Hemingway

Genre: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction

First Publication: 2021

Language: English


Book Summary: The Granddaughter Project by Shaheen Chisti

A modern visionary and one of the newest authors of British-Indian heritage, Shaheen Chishti has written a deeply emotional and raw historical fiction story, poignantly telling the shared experience of three, very different women, who collectively use their voices to improve societal attitudes for their granddaughters. The men around these women, who play prominent roles in their lives, put them into desperate situations. Young and alone, they fight to overcome their experiences. The result is a masterful original contemporary women’s fiction novel, as profound as it is awe-inspiring.

“The Granddaughter Project” grips the reader, as the complex past lives of the women are revealed and their connection to one another deepens.

Touching upon a vast range of themes, including gender inequality, racial oppression, wartime trauma and female emancipation, “The Granddaughter Project” as historical fiction also examines some of history’s greatest tragedies, including The Holocaust which saw the systemic murder of six million European Jews during World War II, the 1958 Notting Hill race riots – a series of racially motivated riots that took place in the United Kingdom from August to September 1958 – as well as the devastating Bengal famine of 1943, which claimed the lives of an estimated three million people due to widespread starvation, malaria and other deadly diseases.


Book Review: The Granddaughter Project by Shaheen Chisti

The Granddaughter Project by Shaheen Chisti is an absolute masterpiece. Kamala, Helga, Lynette, and Maya are some of the strongest fictional women characters I read this year. It’s a story of 3 female survivors of history’s greatest tragedies. Each woman has their own unique story, but they are all linked by the different forms of abuse, prejudice or oppression that they have suffered.

The Granddaughter Project is a story of three women Helga, Kamala, and Lynette.

Helga, a holocaust survivor, who was separated from her family in her childhood, and have experienced the horrors of World War II. She tried to  start new life in Israel.

Kamala belongs to a poor peasant Bengali family. Having an alcoholic and abusive father, Kamala and her family find themselves homeless and hungry during the Bengali Famine. She survives the great famine of Bengal working in a women’s shelter. She marries to a man, Rajeev, who abandons her along with their daughter.

Lynette was from the Caribbean shores, who arrives in London with her mother Pam in 1950s. They face racial discrimination and struggle to make ends meet. After the death of her mother, Lynette was alone at the mercy of the people around her. After getting beaten up during the Notting Hill riots, she was left to die but she survives. This is the story of these 3 resilient women who refuse to give up and surrender to the societal norms.

The book has many characters that transform completely during the book. It is a rare, raw look at humanity and suffering but with a powerful, compelling message of redemption and hope.

All the women from the book are some of the strongest characters I have met in literature. Long before women began speaking up about their different experiences in the #metoo movement, Shaheen Chisti’s Kamala, Helga and Lynette resist the violence and power of the men around them and go on living through the pain and frustration, only to find life worth fighting for in the end. Wherever their life took them, they were surrounded by men who are taught from the cradle to mistreat and look down on women in order to establish their own fragile egos.

Finding spiritual support within the loving human heart is at the centre of this powerful hymn to women across the world, and while telling story of these resilient women, the book approaches the difficult political topics of misogyny, repressed sexuality, colonialism, racism, domestic violence and poverty.

Despite the terrible circumstances of life, it is a book about the joy of living. And the message Shaheen Chisti sends out to people across the world is a positive one: men and women can define their own roles, they can develop and learn and change for the better. Gender roles are not static, and there are moments of peace and friendship for anyone who dares to move out of the pattern of dominance that destroys the freedom of choice for both men and women.

Shaheen Chisti’s characters are not caricatures as they are well-developed and multi-dimensional, not only with both their good and bad sides revealed to the readers but also the reasons why they behave or think that way. Even the secondary characters contributes in bringing out the nature of the main characters. The characters and their emotions are displayed in a raw and unapologetic way, their stories are dynamic and compelling, their plights are austere and penetrating, and the writing is evocative and exalted.

I loved reading about Helga, Kamala, and Lynette and how each of them found the strength to stand up for themselves. Their attempts as women to fight the sexism and (male) oppression present in their society are met with anger and a lot of protest.

Shaheen Chisti does an amazing job at weaving timeless feminist ideas together with themes like cultural differences, the struggle with domestic abuse, feminism, education and literacy, violence, and poverty; and set them during the world’s greatest disasters. The Granddaughter Project is a page turner, but also difficult to read at the same time, because it hits the readers with some harsh truth. In the end, the book will make you think and contemplate about life. Highly recommended.


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