One Part Woman by Perumal Murugan: A Book review

Feb 18, 201918 comments

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It has been a while since I reviewed a translated work I think. And if you are doing the Year of Asian challenge, read this review of One Part Woman and then the book right away. 

About One Part Woman

One Part woman

Book Name: One Part Woman

Author: Perumal Murugan

Genre: Fiction – Drama, Literary, Translated work

Characters: Kali, Ponna, Muthu, 

Setting: Tamilnadu, India

Plot summary of One Part Woman

Set in the southern part of India, the story revolves around Kali and Ponna who have been married for twelve years. They are ridiculed and ostracized for not conceiving a child by their family, friends and the entire village. They have been called names and shamed about their fertility at every instance. Despite having doubts about having a baby, they try to save their face in front of the society. 

They have met with many astrologers, made offerings to the Gods and done every ritual sacrifices to their deities but to no avail. As a last resort, their families ask Ponna to take part in a specific festival celebrating the half-man-half-woman deity, when any man and woman can consensual sexual relationship with one another. 

Will the couple take up the offer? What effect would this offer have on their relationship. You should read One Part Woman to know more. 

Book review of One Part Woman

Though initially written in my mother tongue Tamil, I read One Part Woman in English and I am glad I did that. While I have heard high praises about the original, I am not sure if I could have digested the rawness in the story. 

One Part Woman portrays emphatically the society’s stand towards a couple who are childless, or God forbid choose not to have one, especially in the rural areas. 

Are you looking for a translated literary work that stays true to the original? Then #OnePartWoman should be your choice. Read my review here! Click To Tweet

There are a lot of racial and sexual slurs (not more than other novels of the genre though), but nothing that called for the riots and calls for banning the book. I think the political and casteists should leave the literary world alone.   

Things that worked for me:

  • I loved the layered and flowery writing style of the author. 
  • All the characters are well thought and fully developed. I loved Ponna’s strong and fierce character.
  • The book ends in a kinda cliffhanger and continues in the next part, the end worked for me.
  • The rural life in the south India is perfectly etched.

Things that didn’t work for me:

  • The rawness in writing goes in hand with a lot obscene sexual and racial slurs. That is one reason I am glad I didn’t read it in my mother tongue. 
  • I didn’t get many of the slurs and slang, despite it being my mother tongue. 
  • There are times the flowery writing might seem overdone and drags the pace.


If you want to read a translated work that portrays rural south India then One Part Woman should be your choice. I am definitely reading the part two soon. 

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Let us chat:

Have you read One Part Woman by Perumal Murugan? What was the last translated work you read? Do you read Asian books? Let us talk.

Hello there!

Gayathri loves reading, recommending books and talking about bookish things in real life. Her blog is just an extension of that habit. When she is not reading books or creating online content, she freelances as a beta reader. She lives currently in Dubai.Head over to meet me


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  1. Shruti | This is Lit

    The writing was too raw and flowery for me too, but I really liked the story. Lovely review! ^_^

    • Gayathri

      Thank you!

  2. Stormi Johnson

    This sounds like it would be an emotional but very interesting story. Excellent review!

    • Gayathri

      Thank you!

    • Gayathri

      I totally love that too!

  3. DJ Sakata

    I am totally connecting with this as I received many of those lectures and shamed for being “selfish”

    • Gayathri

      I am sorry that happened to you but I am with you on this.

  4. Pratip

    I haven’t read this Translation but I have read the Original. It is so raw and was fresh when I read it. I have also read the next two books after this. I read all three in a row and kinda didn’t like the writing style. As a Standalone book “One Part Woman” (Maadhorubaagan in Tamil) is a decent read.

    • Gayathri

      I might have to read the other two parts but surely in English. I am not ready to read it in Tamil, especially those slurs!

      • Pratip

        Oh! Sure and please do. The book is still fun to read in Tamil that too in Kongu dialect. 🙂

    • Gayathri

      Yes I was pleasantly surprised.

  5. Dani Eide

    The peer pressure this couple endured! Emotional and heartbreaking. What do we do to conform in our present society? The last translated book I read and just loved was A Winter’s Promise. Can’t wait for the next book! Thanks Gayathri for sharing this book with us, great review. ❤️❤️

    • Gayathri

      Thank you!

  6. Laura Thomas

    This sounds like an emotional read and I can see how a reader would be drawn into the plight of this couple. Glad you enjoyed it and thanks for your wonderful review. I can’t remember the title of the last translated book I read. Been a while. I do know it was French.

    • Gayathri

      You should share the title when you can, if you recommend it.



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