‘The Anatomy Of Choice’ (what a magnificent title) is the second book in the Haveli Series by author Harshali Singh. Where the first book in the series narrated the firstborn Aruna’s story, this one deals with the Sharma daughter number two, Bhavya.
Bhavya, always the unpredictable, always the untameable is in a live-in relationship with her boss, Tenzin, in Paris. After four years of an explosive affair, their relationship enters the doldrums of ennui, and to spice things up, during a vacation in Bali, they indulge in a ménage à trois with another Indian, Kabir. Kabir is also on vacation in Bali at the same time as Tenzin and Bhavya, who continues her friendship with Kabir, angering Tenzin.
Miffed at Tenzin with her short fuse blown, Bhavya returns to the comfort of the Haveli (nicknamed Anwar by the third Sharma daughter, Charu). The Haveli, happy to have his rebellious daughter back, detects an imminent cloud in her future.
Surrounded by her mother Uma, her cantankerous father, Arun, and siblings and friends, Bhavya tries to make sense of the predicament she finds herself in. Even though her relationship with her elder- and about-to-deliver sister, Aruna, has been repaired, she finds herself unable to confide in her and dips within to find a solution.
On a walk with her father, she realises the black structure next to the white marbled Haveli is the mausoleum of the 16th-century courtesan, Noori, whose diary is in possession of Arun. Noori’s story draws some parallels between her life and Bhavya begins to introspect about her life, and her decisions.
The whole set of characters of the first book, including the alphabetized kids, Aruna, Bhavya, Charu, Dheeraj, Eti, Fanny, and Ginny along with Suresh Uncle and Gaurav make their presence felt and help in propelling the story forward just like in the first book. Each of them has been given space to grow and their character arc is admirable. The restrain Uma, the matriarch, or even the father, shows when it comes to her non-interference in her children’s lives is a welcome sight.
Harshali Singh has proved her prowess in the first book of the series, and here she continues to wow you with her deep understanding of familial relationships and how they affect our lives. I couldn’t relate to Bhavya as a character, not because she is not drawn well but because I am not that indecisive or capricious, but I empathize with her situation. Tenzin and Kabir are the new entrants in this book and are probably here to stay, true for at least one of them. The book explains the choices Bhavya makes and how she arrives at those deicsions.
My verdict? Pick up the book, now. Even though it can be read as a standalone to derive its real pleasure, pick up the #1, ‘A Window To Her Dreams’ to set the right context.
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