My latest read was something a little different from my usual preferences. Or at least I thought it was. No bonnets, no time travel, no moors, and no Brontës. However, An Ayah’s Choice is not as different to all that as I thought and spoke to me in a way I wasn’t expecting. A 2022 novel by Shahida Rahman, it follows the journey of a young Indian woman named Jaya and her relationship with her employer. The story takes place over almost twenty years and against the backdrop of British rule in India, beginning at the turn of the twentieth century as Jaya takes a position as ayah to a wealthy British family.
In a small Indian village in 1900, aspiring artist Jaya Devani yearns for freedom beyond the confines of the life expected of her. When she begins a tumultuous relationship with her British colonial employer, William Edmundson, she launches herself on course for a new life as an ayah, a nanny, in London.Amazon synopsis
It’s much more than the romantic story I thought it would be and the plot takes many unexpected twists and turns. There is even a cameo by a very famous historical person. It may be my Brontë-tinted glasses but I can detect shades of Jane Eyre: a governess-type figure, a culture clash, a connection between master and servant, a “madwoman” and her devoted servant, and the realisation that all women are connected by their chains in a patriarchal society. Despite this, it’s not explicitly Brontë inspired to my knowledge.
An Ayah’s Choice is an intriguing and well-written novel charting the journey of an Indian woman torn between different choices and different cultures. It’s a thought-provoking read about the role of women and their shared inequality no matter how wealthy or beautiful they are and the connections forged by forgotten and overlooked women. It does feel a little rushed in parts and Jaya is a character quick to pick faults in others but lacks a great deal of self-reflection. She’s happy to do what serves her purpose and does come across as selfish at times because of this. The novel is full of surprises though and is far from the simple romantic narrative I expected it to be. It’s a journey of discovery and hope and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
In Loving Memory of Bob the Bichon (2007-2019)
A lover of life, the Brontës, and Haworth who knows that I’m just going to write because I can’t help it.
Please do not copy, share, or use the images from this post without seeking permission first.