The narrators consist of three women of different generations of the family, lending the plot a delightful tripartite divide. It is a tale about the tenacity of the human spirit to withstand hardships and about human relationships that endure. This translation—of a difficult text to translate—possesses the rare quality of being appealing to both the English-speaking reader and to the audience who can understand the Bengali language. I’ve had a chance to read the original Bengali text as well, and the work has been successfully transferred, cultural flavor and all, into a rather curt and mercantile language like English ... the reader will be afforded a sidelong glance at upper-middle-class Bengali sentiments, at least at a certain point in the history of this community ... The beginning is Austenesqe—befitting the book being brought out by John Murray, the same publisher who printed Jane Austen’s works back in the day—tongue-in-cheek and dripping with a dry sense of irony ... The book is a riot, a sprightly thriller that will make you not only want to discover more Bengali cultural norms of the vintage era but also create rational stirrings within you to go look up more of Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay’s works. The translated plot metes out a sensitive treatment to the volatile issues of the Partition of India and the heteropatriarchal structures that traditionally cloistered the women of the family, yet it still manages to retain its unquestionably comic element ... contains curious and textured character sketches ... All is described with wonderful deftness ... Taboo subjects like female desire post-widowhood, simmering female rage, indignation at the secret debauchery on the part of the married men in the household—these assume lives of their own in The Aunt Who Wouldn’t Die, morphing into ghosts of an unending past.
The novel's flip title was a draw; its plot summary wasn't. A heartwarming multi-generational tale of three Bengali women sounded to me like a variant on a lot of mass-market women's fiction. But there's nothing canned about this story, which has the allure of a feminist fractured fairy tale ... What makes this little novel so memorable is the generous and expansive way that Somlata meets this malevolence. As the mindfulness coaches are always advising, Somlata responds rather than reacts; instead of remaining a pushover, she pushes back, without malice, against the ghost, as well as against the constraints of her life. This is a story that, like Aunt Pishima, lingers.
... breathes new life into these ideas with an entirely new cultural context, sharp humor, and several intriguing female leads ... Mukhopadhyay’s take on Gothic romance tropes is surprisingly fresh, in part due to its humor ... As a novella, The Aunt Who Wouldn’t Die is succinct and colorful, barely discernible as a translation when it comes to pure prose. If anything, it cries out for more development. Here I acknowledge my own tastes as a reader, and my desire to see point of view characters balanced evenly. While Somlata’s narrative is well-developed and takes its time, Boshon’s narrative is somewhat limited. I found myself wanting more from her character, her intellectual pursuits, her reflections on how she was raised. Additionally, a longer length could’ve allowed for a more fleshed-out setting, sensory imagery, and other subtleties. But overall, I was pleasantly surprised by this short, engaging story ... Nothing short of enjoyable.