BOOK REVIEW: Pyre, Perumal Murugan.

I belong to Chennai, and am so embarrassed to admit that I haven’t read any Tamil books just because I can’t read Tamil that well. I’ve always wanted to read books like Ponniyin Selvan, a Tamil historical novel written by Kalki Krishnamurthy. My friends who read it, have always told me it’s best to read it in Tamil. Maybe that’s what has been stopping me from picking up any translated books so far. But lately I have been feeling that I’m missing so much by not reading these, and finally decided to start with Perumal Murugan’s Pyre.


Saroja and Kumaresan are madly in love. Scared that her father and brother would not approve of her inter-caste marriage, she elopes with Kumaresan and gets married. After their marriage, he takes her to his village. Newly wed, Saroja, filled with lots of hope and excitement, enters his village. Kumaresan had warned her about the people in his village and told her not to interact much with their neighbours initially. Though she knew that this journey would not be easy, she had confidence in him and believed that things will settle down slowly. She was least prepared for the things that were about to unfold. Kumaresan was so naive to believe that the curiosity of the villagers will die down soon, and they can start living happily.

After just one look at Saroja, a very pretty and fair skinned city girl, the villagers strongly  suspect that she must belong to a different caste. Marayi, Kumaresan’s mom, a single parent, has all through her life worked so hard for her living. Her only wish was to see her son marry a girl from their caste. When she sees Saroja, she starts beating Kumaresan and tells him that he has dishonored his family. Kumaresan expected his mother would be furious, but thought being a woman she would slowly understand Saroja’s position. Sadly, that never happened.

The story is about how low people stoop in the name of caste. Sadly, till date, these incidents happen is many places. The author has done an excellent job in penning down the bitter truth.


There are three main characters in this story – Kumaresan, Saroja and Marayi. You can’t help but admire Kumaresan’s character. A guy who respects his mother for all she has done and at the same time ready to stand up against her when he knows she’s wrong. The way he cares for Saroja would make anyone’s heart melt. Saroja is another character that you will definitely like. A girl brought up in a city, suddenly comes to this village where everyone is a stranger and also strange. Things get complicated when she can’t talk to anyone. Kumaresan is her whole world, and just a warm embrace from him would make her sorrows fly away. Though at times she breaks down and wants to go back, she is ready to face every problem just with the hope that it will all end one day, and they can live happily ever after. Marayi is one character you will end up hating. She has sworn to make Saroja’s life a living hell there. She always foul mouths and her hatred for Saroja is just so evident. It is so disheartening to know that all the other characters in the village share the same feeling. I personally felt this story had a lot of bold characters that brought out the harsh reality.


I enjoyed the writing. I felt that the translator has done a fairly decent job with the translation. Being a Tamilian, I enjoyed the use of Tamil words in between, it kept it real. The story is told in many perspectives. The way the emotions are brought out is remarkable. The writing is simple, atmospheric and beautiful.


I really enjoyed this book, and would highly recommend it. The writing hits home and makes you wonder about the harsh brutalities of our society. It is a quick, compelling and beautiful read. Please do pick it up, and am looking forward to reading more of Perumal Murugan’s works.

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

To buy this book, click here.
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  • Hardcover: 270 pages
  • Publisher: Hamish Hamilton; Latest Edition edition (27 April 2016)
  • Language: English

Hope you liked the review. Do share your thoughts about this book.

A fellow bibliophile.

One thought on “BOOK REVIEW: Pyre, Perumal Murugan.

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