The Widows of Malabar Hill discussion questions

  1. Perveen Mistry joins a long line of literary women breaking new ground. As a solicitor, she represents female clients, who have had limited access to protection due to religious law and lack of education. Many times, in the eyes of the law, these women didn’t have rights at all. How is Perveen’s job more difficult than a contemporary female lawyer? Which of her obstacles particularly frustrated you?
  2. Perveen’s family is wealthy. Would her options have been more limited had she come from a less well-off family? What choices was she allowed to make because of her upper-class position? Do Perveen’s convictions stem from the relative freedom that comes from her place in the world, or do they seem inherent to her character?
  3. What do you make of Cyrus? Did he actually love Perveen? Had Perveen’s family not been wealthy, would he still have wanted to marry her? Were you in Perveen’s position, would you have carried out his final wishes?
  4. How are the differences between the Mistrys’ modern attitudes and the Sodawallas’ orthodox attitudes highlighted? Are the gaps between modern and traditional religions still as stark today?
  5. Many of the characters in the novel seem accepting of modern ideas and notions. Did this strike you as true to the characters’ strong convictions? Inconsistent with the setting of the story?
  6. The contrast between locals and expatriates is touched upon in Widows. Do you think non-natives like Alice Hobson-Jones and her family experience more or less freedom in India?
  7. What is Alice’s function in the novel? What did this female friendship bring to the story?
  8. Solitude and separation are recurring themes for the women. How was Perveen isolated in her worlds? Who else in the story was isolated in other ways?
  9. Were you surprised by the widows’ choice to abandon purdah at the end of the book? Did you believe it to be their choice to observe purdah all along, or did they feel freed somehow at the end? What triggered this change?
  10. What surprised you about the 1920s setting? What did you learn about Parsi culture as a result of reading Widows?
  11. This is the first book in a new series. Where do you imagine the series might head in book 2? Which characters, ideas, or settings do you hope to encounter again?

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