Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao review – teenage trial by misogyny

Two Indian friends endure rape, prostitution and trafficking in a brutal, evocative yet slightly implausible debut

In the opening chapter of Shobha Rao’s debut novel, there is a tale about an old, childless woman who has cultivated a grove of trees in her Indian village “as a way to care for something, as a way to nurture something fragile and lovely”. When a journalist comes to interview her, and she says that she sees the trees as her children, he congratulates her on having so many sons. The woman replies: “You’re mistaken, young man. These aren’t my sons… These are my daughters.”

The cultural value of sons versus daughters and the human need to find something – or someone – to care for are themes that pervade Girls Burn Brighter.

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