I love Shree Ghatage’s writing because it is rich and redolent with a sense of place and time, and Thirst is no exception. It is set in India, Wales and England in 1942, and each locale is lovingly brought to life with the kind of detail that makes it feel as if you’ve really visited. More than just setting details, the details of characters and their emotions seem true to time and place. Thirst tells the story of two young people joined in an arranged marriage, who have never met before their wedding. At first Vijay and Vasanti seem to have little in common, but over the months following the wedding a shy, sweet love story unfolds. However, before the relationship can truly have a chance to blossom, Vijay leaves India for London, where he has made plans to study law. Everyone thinks he’s crazy for going to England in the middle of the war, especially as he’s leaving his new bride behind, but Vijay has reasons of his own for making the trip.
Nothing in England is quite what Vijay hoped it would be. The story leaves Vasanti behind and follows his adventures as a series of events leads to him turning up alone, injured and temporarily amnesiac in a remote Welsh village. There, a brief encounter with a kindly old man and the man’s daughter leads Vijay to make a fateful mistake that will test his deeply ingrained sense of honour and duty.
I loved reading this book and felt completely immersed in it, and curiously shocked when it ended. I think this may be one of the disadvantages of reading a book on an e-reader — unlike a physical book, you can’t always tell how close you are to the end. At the point the story ended, I was expecting there to be a lot more, and so the ending struck me as abrupt and, in many ways, unsatisfying. Having left her main character with an almost unsolvable problem, Ghatage does not tell the reader exactly how he solves it — though she leaves enough clues for us to draw a conclusion. I was disappointed by the ending but I think the disappointment I felt was probably what the author would have wanted me to feel — in other words, she did not intend to tell a story that tied off all the loose ends as neatly as some readers might like. After the emotional energy I’d invested in Vijay’s and Visanti’s relationship at the beginning of the book I was jarred by how it ended — but then, real life is all too often jarring, and many loose ends don’t get tidied away.
I definitely recommend this book and would be interested in hearing how others responded to the ending.