My latest book is The One Who Swam With The Fishes.

"A mesmerizing account of the well-known story of Matsyagandha ... and her transformation from fisherman’s daughter to Satyavati, Santanu’s royal consort and the Mother/Progenitor of the Kuru clan." - Hindustan Times

"Themes of fate, morality and power overlay a subtle and essential feminism to make this lyrical book a must-read. If this is Madhavan’s first book in the Girls from the Mahabharata series, there is much to look forward to in the months to come." - Open Magazine

"A gleeful dollop of Blytonian magic ... Reddy Madhavan is also able to tackle some fairly sensitive subjects such as identity, the love of and karmic ties with parents, adoption, the first sexual encounter, loneliness, and my favourite, feminist rage." - Scroll

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27 March 2015

This is not chick lit: five Indian women authors who are better than the white male ones you're reading now

I'm not actually into reading challenges. I think they're a good idea in theory, but I read so much anyway, and across the board, and my TBR pile is growing so high, that I don't want to add any more confusion to the list. The only thing I do ask myself is to read more non-fiction, because that stuff is hard to swallow in one swoop (and I mean investigate/researched non-fic, not memoirs). But I realised I was reading fewer Indian authors, and I made it a point to start this year with more of those. If you're looking for a starter kit, though, here are some of my SUPER FAB ALL TIME eM APPROVED FAVOURITES. This list is abbreviated though obviously there are a lot more than five (my books are really good, here buy them if you want.) so leave a comment or tweet me or something with more and we'll get a hard core list up together. Crowd sourcing FTW!

The Village By The Sea by Anita Desai

I read and devoured this book as a child, and as an adult I re-read it and saw so many themes that I had missed my first time round. It’s the story of a poor family: mother ill, father drunk, and two children, Hari and Lila who try to change their family fortunes. Set in a little village close to Alibaug, this gorgeous book is a melancholy summer read, and also a really good gift for a young adult in your life.  

Village by the Sea

A Life Less Ordinary by Baby Halder

An Indian version of The Help, written by the actual help herself. Baby Halder’s autobiography speaks of her rough childhood and her adult years as a domestic worker. She worked for Premchand’s grandson, who noted her interest when she was dusting his bookshelves and encouraged her to read and write down her own life story. This book is a must read as it sheds so much light on to the lives of people who remain mostly voiceless.  

A Life Less Ordinary

Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni 

Okay, so Divakaruni’s work is a little bit of exotic porn. Regardless, Palace of Illusions is a fine piece of work. It retells the Mahabharata from the point of view of Draupadi, a woman I have always been fascinated with, and does not disappoint. I didn’t want it to end, and you won’t be able to put it down once you begin.  

The Palace of Illusions

Difficult Daughters by Manju Kapur

Kapur’s books are generally slow burners (which doesn't mean I don't love them), lots of family, lots of narrative, but this one, her first, is a gorgeous tale of a girl living next door to a married professor who she eventually falls in love with. It’s set in India in the 1940s, and speaks of family ties and how much you’d give up to be independent. 

Difficult Daughters

The Twentieth Wife by Indu Sunderesan

Another historical fiction author for this list, Sunderesan writes about the life of the Mughals. This particular book is about Mehrunissa, the girl who caught Jehangir’s eye and went on to marry him much later, and ruled the kingdom in his stead. It’s sort of brilliant, and you’ll never look at Indian history—or in this case, herstory—the same way again. My friend Charu Shankar is starring in the TV version of this called Siyasat, which I hear is terrific too.  

The Twentieth Wife

(A version of this story was originally published on


  1. You may enjoy reading Geetha Hariharan. Especially this novel called Fugitive Histories which is set against the backdrop of the Gujarat riots. She is an important contemporary Indian writer.

  2. Adding these to the Bucket list!


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