A review by scrubsandbooks
The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff

adventurous dark emotional funny reflective medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes


I have listed almost all the content warnings I can think of it, and yeah, that full list can be pretty damn intense, and at first I thought I was going to have to take this book in small increments because a lot of these triggers may be really hard to deal. BUT, the book is wrought with dark humor, and it was sufficiently hilarious enough that I was able to keep going while not watering down or minimizing the serious topics discussed.

The main character, Geeta, is a social pariah in her village because her abusive husband left her five years prior to the start of the novel and they all think that she murdered him. She never confirms or denies this because it means people leave her alone while at the same time, buys from her jewelry business because they don't want to piss off the woman because heaven forbid she come after them! It all starts spiraling out of her control when one of the women of the village comes to her and asks her for help in killing her abusive husband. The Bandit Queen of the title references  the Real Life Bandit Queen, Phoolan Devi and she is talked about repeatedly in the book for the sake of making parallels to the MC. I strongly suggest looking up her life story, it is so interesting.

As you can see, the story has a lot to do with misogyny, domestic abuse, the patriarchy that plagues a lot of areas of India. There's a lot of classism spoken on in the book as well. Parini Shroff is able to make a reader both laugh and wince at what the MC and her found family (yes, this one has a found family trope!) go through.

Okay, I know I'm praising the book but why the lower rating? Because there's some ableism and fatphobia/fat-shaming that happens that is mostly just super glossed over or played for laughs. The MC uses it to insult her best friend turned enemy turned ally again and although afterward, she apologizes for her behavior, the fat-phobic jokes/insult still keep coming well into the end of the book. I feel like the author could have done a way better job addressing those issues because even if the book focuses heavily on sexism and domestic abuse/SA, I don't think ableism or body-shaming should EVER be used as comic relief. Because of this, honestly, I cannot recommend the book, but if you decide to read it, you will learn about another culture, but keep in mind all the trigger warnings as well as topics that Shroff could have done better. I would suggest keep an Internet search bar open as well because while I'm from India and understood all the foreign words and customs, readers might not because not everything is explained fully in the book.

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