Rescuing a River Breeze Review

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Selma Carvalho

Apr 20, 2024, 6:18:06 AMApr 20
to The Third Thursday Goa Book Club, Goa Writers
A review by Selma Carvalho of the book 'Rescuing a River Breeze' by Mrinalini Harchandrai.

"Harchandrai’s novel is a layered work. The first thing to strike the reader is the exquisite detail capturing the canvas of Goa’s cultural topography, the fisherwomen vending fish, the baker “holding out his wares in an open, cloth-lined basket,” descriptions of houses “lined up gloriously with their red-tiled roofs, shell-encrusted window shutters and lacy grill-work balcões”, “delicious afternoon siesta”, “purple and pink bougainvillaea” hedges, four-poster beds, convent schools and music recitals. One could turn to any page in the book and there will be a description which is intimate and derived from careful observation.

The other aspect which is extraordinary in its accuracy is the description of Goa’s topography, Panjim’s gridlines of main streets and arteries, the Mandovi River, the Idalcao palace, the Abbe Faria statue, then spreading outwards to Fort Aguada and further afield, the “neon paddy fields, hilly backgrounds, scattered villages, rivulets, mint-white crosses and bright, chalky churches,” leading to the iron-rich red earth of the mining belt.

Lastly, there is the history seamlessly absorbed into the narrative. Harchandrai’s research into the period is quite exhaustive. One example will suffice to illustrate the depth of her enquiry. Shirly and Ana’s school, Our Lady of the Ocean of Providence Convent School is housed in a villa converted by Franciscan nuns. This is exactly how schools sprung up in Goa, verandahs, spare rooms, or ruinous church halls, with the help of a benefactor or two became fledgling classrooms and then schools.
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