Ira Mathur, an Indian-born Trinidadian award-winning multimedia journalist, launched her book–Love the Dark Days at the Nehru Centre in London on Wednesday. The book is published by Peepal Tree Press.
In 2021 Mathur was longlisted for the Bath Novel Award for her unpublished novel Touching Dr Simone. In 2019 Mathur was longlisted for the Johnson and Amoy Achong Caribbean Writers Prize. In 2018, she was shortlisted for the Bridport Short Story Prize, the Lorian Hemmingway (short story) and Small Axe Literary Competition. She is the Trinidad Guardian’s longest-running columnist and has freelanced for The Guardian (UK) and the BBC. Mathur has degrees in Literature, Law and Journalism, and gained diplomas in creative writing at the University of East Anglia/Guardian.
Frank, fearless and multi-layered
This frank, fearless and multi-layered debut centres on a privileged but dysfunctional Indian family, with themes of empire, migration, race, and gender. The Victorian India elephant in the room in Mathur’s silk-swathed memoir Love The Dark Days is in chains. By the time calypso replaces the Raj in post-colonial Trinidad, the chains are off three generations of daughters and mothers in a family in their New World exile. But they are still stuck in place and enduring insecurity and threats, seen and unseen. The book is about accrued intergenerational damage between mothers and daughters in post-colonial worlds.
The story of the life of Poppet, whose privileged family has colluded with the brutality of the British Rule in India, lives with her grandmother Burrimummy, who feels a raging loss at the fading old world. With it, her privilege.
She absorbs her grandmother’s rage, becoming a living memorial of all the pain and injustice the imperious Burrimummy repeatedly hauls back from her past to tell and retell to Poppet. Just as she is constantly pulled into the old wounds, so is the reader. The story is crafted so the reader viscerally experiences how trauma loops around, coming back and back through generations to warp the future.
Set in India, England, Trinidad and a weekend in St Lucia, with Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott Love the Dark Days follows the story of a girl, Poppet, of mixed middle-class Hindu and Elite Muslim parentage from post-independent India to her family’s migration to post-colonial Trinidad. Profoundly raw, unflinching, layered, but not without threads of humour and perceived absurdity, Love the Dark Days reassembles the story of a disintegrating Empire.
That damage of unbelonging is repeated when her family migrates to Trinidad, where, in her darkest hour, she meets Walcott, who encourages her when she visits him in St Lucia over a weekend to leave the past behind and reinvent herself. Before she can do this, Poppet must re-enter the past one last time.
Can she find the courage to examine each broken shard of her shattered family and reassemble it into a new shape in a new world? Love the Dark Days is an intricate tapestry with Poppet’s story at its heart.
Ira Mathur at her book signing at the Nehru Centre in London on Wednesday.
Praise for Mathur’s book
“Glorious writing full of hard-won wisdom. A transcendent memoir about extremes of love and hate, princely wealth and the rebellious, righteous poor. I loved it.”—Maggie Gee
“Moving from pre-Independence India to Trinidad and London, we see the growing pains of the author, as she decodes her relationships with her glamorous parents, her beautiful piano-playing authoritative grandmother and her two siblings. In a world between poverty and privilege, she is guided by Derek Walcott and Naipaul is ever-present. Ultimately, she has to find her own voice, her own truth and reconciliation. A window into a world, rich in history, that few know about. A compelling read.”—Shrabani Basu
“A blaze of a book, a Caribbean feminist memoir that examines inherited patriarchal abuse of women and societal norms brought from the Old World to the New. This exquisitely written memoir examines familial love and fateful blood ties while scrutinising, with compassion, a flawed patriarch and magus too, Derek Walcott. Mathur deftly yokes together parallel worlds, colonial India and post-colonial Trinidad. Both worlds are dark, and both worlds hurt women.” —Monique Roffey
“Mathur brings alive startling episodes from her technicolour life, proving truth is not just stranger but often more compelling than fiction. There is a sense of her burning through her days, reckless, raw, passionate at times. For all that, she offers the embers of her life with a rarely found wisdom. An exquisite, compassionate, and necessary book.”—Amanda Smyth
Andrew Whitehead, former BBC World Service editor and Delhi correspondent Jeremy Poynting at the launch of Ira Mathur’s book on Empire at the Nehru Centre, Mayfair, London, on Wednesday.
“One of the most powerful and exciting new voices in contemporary literature. Love the Dark Days is an extraordinary, multi-layered memoir, drawing threads from the colonial past into a moving, contemporary story of fragile relationships. Ira Mathur is a real find.” —David Haviland
“What marvellous and heart-rending crossroads multiplied during the twentieth century. Between east, west, north, and south; many kinds of ancient and untold modes of modern; from ‘man’ and ‘woman’ to vulnerable beings of imagination and heart...Over the years I have witnessed Ira Mathur navigating an all too human writer’s life, I have yearned for her to put something of her beauty, wisdom and pain into print. Here it is. Stranger and more compelling than any fantasy, here we are.”—Vahni (Anthony Ezekiel) Capildeo
“This brave and inspiring feminist critique of patriarchy and gender oppression has wonderful promise as a biting movie adaptation for the #MeToo era.”—Etan Vlessing, Hollywood reporter
“I was transported by this gem of a memoir, written over even years by an award-winning, Indian-born journalist, dubbed the “Jon Snow” of Trinidad. Set in her home nation, but also St Lucia, India and London, it’s a multi-layered account of a woman growing to feminist maturity while grappling with the ongoing traumas that result from her turbulent childhood. With many memorable characters, including her formidable grandmother Burrimummy, it also features Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott, who was a mentor of her work. Monique Roffey is spot on when she calls it a “blaze of a book”. —Caroline Sanderson, The Bookseller
“A compelling memoir of the binding power of love and the liberating beauty of forgiveness.”—Earl Lovelace
↓ABOUT The book
Title: Love the Dark Days Author: Ira Mathur
Author’s website: www.irasroom.org
Publisher: Peepal Tree Press
US release date: July 7, 2022
Genre: Memoir Format: Royal size paperback edition with French flaps Pages: 230 Available at: Peepal Tree Press, Amazon UK and Amazon US