Girl Gone Bad

Domestic Noir and I

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It all started with Gone Girl. I mean, not that we didn’t know about it earlier. It’s just that we kind of woke up to it, after Rosamind Pike played Amy Dunne with cold-blooded precision and Ben Affleck nailed it as her hapless husband Nick Dunne — in the on-screen adaption of Gillian Flynn’s book by the same name. And now there’s Paula Hawkin’s Girl on the Train. And SJ Watson’s Before I go to Sleep.

All based on the same premise: not everything is quaint and rosy at home. In fact, marriage is the new battlefield. Home – the new cool setting to tell a story, introduce twists and cliff-hangers and end it in a way that leaves you disturbingly intrigued.

Domestic Noir is what it’s called. Quite often, it’s obnoxiously termed as chick noir — because it’s written by women. And read by women. But the thing is — men do write it as well. SJ Watson and Tom Rob Smith being cases in point.

A literary sub-genre within crime fiction, it’s an interesting and powerful development in the thriller world. Take a look at the top bestsellers in UK and US and you’ll get my drift. Movie makers in Hollywood are queuing up to reap the benefits of this hot trend. And writers like Gillian Flynn are laughing their way to the bank.

In India, however, domestic noir is not quite there. You’ll struggle to find a book that is anything more than a whodunnit. There are crimes. Suspects. Chases. Plot twists. Quirky detectives and cops and a ruthless murderer.

In these books what begins as a thriller, remains a thriller and ends as a thriller. It never unfolds into a close and progressing examination of intimacy, loss and recovery. It never becomes Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng – touted as amazon’s book of the year (2014). A brilliant exploration of familial ties. A poignant look at the damage parents can inflict on their children and on each other. And how an Asian-American family can struggle to fit-in and make sense of a tragedy that was waiting to happen.

So when I wrote my book Wants and Desires, I knew I was in synch with a global trend. But not in synch with the over-arching trend of crime fiction written and sold here in India. My challenge, therefore, lies in reaching out to those who want to move beyond blood and gore and discover a setting that they know all too well: their home.

My aim is to take my readers into the minds of people they think they know well. And look at the whys and why nots. More than the hows, whos and whats.

Wants and Desires is domestic noir. It is for those who take a keen interest in family psycho-pathology. Who are brave enough to explore the darker side of relationships. And a complex and mysterious universe also known as the human mind.

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2 comments

  1. Daisy Suman

    Interesting take, Chitrangada. It is still an evolving genre, at least in the Indian context, where familial ties are held sacrosanct. I read an excerpt of your book and was intrigued by the premise. If only, I could find a few uninterrupted hours to read! 🙂 Thanks for sharing this behind the scenes perspective on your book. Cheers!

    1. Chitrangada Post author

      Couldn’t agree more. 🙂 And that’s the challenge Daisy. I mean a few good books and a large group of interested readers can get the ball rolling for us. Do read my take on the popular international genre, when you’ve time. Thanks for dropping by.

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