Book: Songs of the Cauvery

Author: Kalyanaraman Durgadas

Genre: Fiction

Publishing House: Rupa


Nothing can disturb the serenity of Tiruvaiyaru, South India, until Panju, a brilliant boy from an orthodox family, decides to join the revolutionary freedom movement. His actions affect not only him, but those he holds close—his sister Janaki who, breaking age-old tradition, aims to become the first local woman with a college education.

As Panju’s decisions come with ripple effects, Sambu, Ranjitham and Janaki are compelled to make compromises they had never bargained for. Like the Cauvery—who exhausts herself to a mere trickle to enrich those around her—the characters in the novel must learn the true meaning of sacrifice.


I was curious about Songs of the Cauvery because the story seemed to revolve around Tanjore, Tamil Nadu which is where I originally hail from.  When I got the book, my mom was the first one to pick it up and start reading.  And she loved it.  The thing about this book is it is set in an environment that my mom was sort of familiar with. Of course, the story is set decades before my mom was born but there were things/events she could connect with.

The story starts with Sambhu, a priest in Thiruvaiyaru and moves on to his son Panju who joins the initial Freedom struggle. The characters are interesting and the plot keeps you involved.

The one thing that I felt marred the impact was the ambiguity around the prime language of the story. The author seems undecided on whether he wanted to write it in Tamil or English. Though, the story is in English, author Durgadas uses a lot of Tamil phrases/sayings throughout the story. I would have been okay if he had kept the phrases in Tamil and just included the meanings as footnotes. Instead, literal translations of every phrase or idiom have been done. This resulted in a very strange effect for me. It spoiled the story for me as I would stop reading every few sentences just to figure out the original Tamil saying/phrase and then would spend the next couple of minutes laughing. It just ended up ruining the experience of a good story for me.

Overall, ‘Songs of the Cauvery’ had me hooked and I would give it 3 out of 5.



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