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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

     

My Kind of Girl

by
Buddhadeva Bose


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase My Kind of Girl



Title: My Kind of Girl
Author: Buddhadeva Bose
Genre: Novel
Written: 1951 (Eng. 2009)
Length: 138 pages
Original in: Bengali
Availability: My Kind of Girl - US
My Kind of Girl - UK
My Kind of Girl - Canada
My Kind of Girl - India
La fille de nos rêves - France
Das Mädchen meines Herzens - Deutschland
La ragazza del mio cuore - Italia
La mujer de mi vida - España
  • Translated by Arunava Sinha

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Our Assessment:

B : has some period/cultural charm, but a bit thin

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Hindustan Times . 5/4/2009 Indrajit Hazra
NZZ . 9/2/2011 Claudia Kramatschek
The Observer . 12/11/2011 Helen Zaltzman
The Telegraph (Calcutta) . 15/5/2009 Somak Ghoshal
TLS . 1/6/2012 Rosinka Chaudhuri


  From the Reviews:
  • "Bose’s remarkable talent of throwing his characters’ voices and at the same time inhabiting their skin is on full display in this slim, moving book." - Indrajit Hazra, Hindustan Times

  • "Das Mädchen meines Herzens -- im umfangreichen Gesamtwerk des Autors eher eine elegante Fingerübung -- hatte insofern im Kontext seiner Entstehungszeit mehr Ecken und Kanten, als es heutigen Lesern angesichts der geschliffenen Sprache und der ausgewogenen Komposition erscheinen mag." - Claudia Kramatschek, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

  • "Perhaps nuances have been lost in the translation, for the four narrators seem much of a muchness: rather dreary men taking a passive role in their stories, even when they are placed at the centre of them. The conceit for the piece is redolent of a Turgenev story, but where he would have wrought a quietly devastating sketch of romantic disappointment, these tales are plodding rather than wistful in tone, and populated with indistinguishable characters." - Helen Zaltzman, The Observer

  • "As translations go, this is an admirable effort, though it never quite manages to do full justice to the innate elegance of Bose’s original. (...) The design is familiar, going back to the great European story-cycles of Boccaccio and Chaucer, but sharpened by that extra edge of sophistication Bose invariably managed to bring into his best work." - Somak Ghoshal, The Telegraph (Calcutta)

  • "That My Kind of Girl -- a classic modernist tale of four passengers stranded in a railway-station waiting room at night, recounting stories of lost loves -- is engrossing is thanks not only to Sinha's abilities, but to the quality of Bose's narrative, which, unlike his earlier, Calcutta-based masterpiece, Tithidore (1949), inhabits a lighter, more Maupassant-like manner instead." - Rosinka Chaudhuri, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       My Kind of Girl finds four middle-aged men, all with some Bengali connection, stranded at Tundla railway station (near Agra, in the heart of India). A derailment has stopped all train traffic, and they're stuck in the first-class waiting room for the night. A couple -- "clearly newlyweds" -- look into the waiting room, but don't venture further -- and the men are inspired by the lovers' obvious love for one another to reflect on romance past.
       "Ultimately only the memory remains, nothing else", one observes, and in My Kind of Girl each of the four relates a memory. As one of them -- a writer -- notes:

There's no one who has never liked someone. What happened afterwards is not the point, the liking is what counts. Maybe it's memory, too, that counts. Some kind of memory ...
       The four stories offer a variety of takes on love, and one of them is even the relatively happy story of how one of the travelers came to marry his wife, with whom he has led a happy life. The others, however, are tinged much more with regret and failures.
       The first isn't even a personal story, as the teller instead recounts a friend's tale, a man -- "let's call him Makhanlal" -- who doesn't marry the neighbor-girl. The first in his family to earn a university degree, Makhanlal's parents -- led by his loud and opinionated mother -- try to marry him off to the girl, but are turned away by her professor father. But while Makhanlal and his family's fortunes improve, as he is successful at his work, the professor and his family find themselves in increasingly dire straits. Makhanlal, who is very passive regarding his private life, unwilling and unable to take much initiative, does finally take a step to set things right -- but his charity also makes it impossible for there to be anything between him and the girl next door.
       The second story is one of young love: "back at that distant age of seventeen, Pakhi had loved me". The encounters between the narrator and this Pakhi are few and limited, however; nothing comes of it -- but the narrator also meets her again several times over the years, describing the changed circumstances and the lingering feelings as they get on with their separate lives.
       In the third story a doctor describes how came to marry a woman named Bina -- though when he first met her she was desperately in love with a friend of his, and after that her family tried to set her up with any number of other eligible bachelors before she finally settled on the doctor.
       The writer in this group tells the fourth story, from his youth, when he and two of his closest friends all had a crush on a girl they referred to as Mona Lisa. They help the family when the girl has typhoid, but despite their attachment to her there is, of course, no future for all of them together.
       Set in a time of changing mores, where it is sometimes possible for a man and woman to walk or talk in relative privacy but where behavior is still closely monitored, love here doesn't so much flourish as briefly bubble. Bina is the exception, admitting to her passion for a man (who won't reciprocate it); it is also Bina who protests how her well-meaning parents go about trying to choose her mate. Her sister thinks it's simple:
     "Why don't you tell us what kind of person you want -- we'll look."
     Bina said, "Are you telling me it's like an outfit or a shoe that you can order at a shop ?"
       It's also Bina who seems to have fared best among the love-interests, the doctor acknowledging that despite how they came to be married, "life with Bina had turned out to be perfectly happy." When last seen, the other women are not doing nearly so well.
       The various episodes take place between the mid-1920s and the Second World War (the book itself was first published in 1951), and the picture of Bengali society is of those times: My Kind of Girl is very much a period piece (or pieces), and often feels rather quaint. Charmingly so, certainly, but still. The stories -- and the framing device, of the four men who meet and then go their separate ways -- are also a bit thin in the telling, Bose not fleshing out nearly as much as he could have. In part this is surely on purpose: one obvious thing in all the tales is all that's left unspoken, and the difficulty of (straightforward) communication is certainly behind how much of this turns out. Still, one longs for these accounts to go into greater detail.
       My Kind of Girl is a distinctly small-scale entertainment, and quite appealing as such; it does, however, leave one wishing for more.

- M.A.Orthofer, 4 August 2010

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Links:

My Kind of Girl: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Bengali author Buddhadeva Bose (বুদ্ধদেব বসু) lived 1908 to 1974.

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© 2010-2012 the complete review

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