Five minutes with Parini Shroff

Meet Parini Shroff, author of the Women’s Prize 2023 longlisted novel The Bandit Queens. A book which The New York Times has called “a radically feel-good story about the murder of no-good husbands by a cast of unsinkable women.”

The premise of this book is powerful and unique, so what was the inspiration behind the novel? We grabbed a quick five minutes with each of the authors behind the longlisted books to ask that question and more…

Parini Shroff:

Describe your novel in one sentence as if you were telling a friend.

It’s a dark comedy following Geeta, a village woman with a reputation who is approached by aspiring widows demanding Geeta’s begrudging help, which leads to far-reaching consequences.

What inspired you to write The Bandit Queens?

While visiting India, I observed a micro-loan group meeting. It was empowering and wonderful, but I wondered what, in a rural area of a patriarchal country, could stop any of their husbands should they choose to exert their dominance? What if a husband stole? What if his wife wanted justice, albeit dark justice?

Are there any locations that have a special connection for you or your book?

This novel is set in a fictional village, but it is a composite of various villages and towns I’ve seen, as well as pieces of the capital of Gujarat, where my family lives: Ahmedabad. Many of the specific descriptions of homes and courtyards are lifted from my mother’s childhood home, where I spent my summers growing up.

Which part of the book was the most fun to write? Which was the most challenging?

Any portion of the book where Geeta and Saloni are together was a treat to write; their friendship, history, dynamic, hurt and love crackled, and it was with these two that the novel felt most alive. The most challenging portion was, hands down, the ending–it took 20+ drafts of the last two chapters to weave the elements together in a satisfying manner!

Which of the characters from the book would you most like to spend a weekend away with and why?

Saloni! She’s that magnetic best friend whom you admire because she possesses qualities you may not. Saloni is ambitious, sharp, and witty. Confident but vulnerable, loyal but vain. Her platonic love story with Geeta and their reunion after years of estrangement was a redemption I was not expecting when I began writing this book.

What first inspired you to write?

I’ve been writing some form of fiction or another since I was a child, and for that reason, I’m not sure I know how to navigate life other than “taking to the page.” But much of this particular novel was inspired by love–for my friends, for India, of comedy, of history, of second chances

What is the best piece of writing advice you have received?

As I mentioned, I’ve been writing for most of my life, and such an endeavour comes with a fair amount of rejection. The best advice I’ve received is from a friend who wisely said, “Keep going.”

Have you read the 2023 Women’s Prize longlist?

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