The Reading Women Challenge – A Book Longlisted for the JCB Prize

Happy Friday and if you’re anything like me (i.e., having a complete lack of motivation for living in the real world), then well done on getting through this week 🙂

A blog post a day keeps the slack away. And therefore, swiftly moving on from Clap When You Land, here we are with the next prompt I chose for the Reading Women Challenge – A Book Longlisted for the JCB Prize.

I have to admit, I went into this book completely unaware of what to expect. Going solely off some glowing reviews on Goodreads, I decided ‘All the Lives We Never Lived’ by Anuradha Roy would be the best pick for this prompt.


Propriety, sobriety, obedience: these were the very things she had made it her life’s mission to annihilate.

The story, set in pre-Independence India, starts off on a very promising note.

We have Gayathri – young, passionate and impetuous, married to Nek Chand, presumably older than her and also restrained, disciplined and dedicated to the cause of the freedom struggle.

Narrated entirely by their only son Myshkin, as the plot progresses we see the inevitable marital discord, Gayatri’s frustration at being ‘tied down’ in her role as a wife and a mother and her desperate attempts at freedom which eventually make her take the drastic step of leaving behind her carefully constructed life and start pursuing her passions.

What I loved

Pre-Independence India presented in all its vintage charm with many famous names casually thrown around evoked a sense of nostalgia. Roy however also accurately captures the simmering patriotic tensions of that era and succeeds in presenting an India of contradictions.

What did not work for me

I tried my best but simply couldn’t manage to get engrossed by this book. While it does have a promising start, the narration tends to go round in circles which made me do the dreaded ‘skip through the pages’. When that happens more frequently than desired, I know the book isn’t going to work for me.

Final Words

The prose is beautifully written, but fails to get the plot moving. It shows a tendency to take off on several tangents which made me lose grip of the narrative. Overall, although very promising, unfortunately this book was not for me.

The Reading Women Challenge – Prompts Completed 8/24

  1. A book with a rural setting
  2. A book with a cover designed by a woman
  3. A fantasy novel by an Asian author
  4. A book by a neurodivergent author
  5. Reread a favourite
  6. Protagonist older than 50
  7. Young Adult Novel by a Latinx author
  8. A book longlisted for the JCB prize

Cover image courtesy:

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