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By the award-winning writer of Beautiful Thing, a masterly inquest into how the mysterious deaths of two teenage girls shone a light into the darkest corners of a nation. The girls' names were Padma and Lalli, but they were so inseparable that people in the village called them Padma Lalli. Sixteen-year-old Padma sparked and burned. Fourteen-year-old Lalli was an incorrigib By the award-winning writer of Beautiful Thing, a masterly inquest into how the mysterious deaths of two teenage girls shone a light into the darkest corners of a nation. The girls' names were Padma and Lalli, but they were so inseparable that people in the village called them Padma Lalli. Sixteen-year-old Padma sparked and burned. Fourteen-year-old Lalli was an incorrigible romantic. They grew up in Katra Sadatganj, an eye-blink of a village in western Uttar Pradesh crammed into less than one square mile of land. It was out in the fields, in the middle of mango season, that the rumors started. Then one night in the summer of 2014 the girls went missing; and hours later they were found hanging in the orchard. Who they were, and what had happened to them, was already less important than what their disappearance meant to the people left behind. In the ensuing months, the investigation into their deaths would implode everything that their small community held to be true, and instigate a national conversation about sex and violence. Slipping deftly behind political maneuvering, caste systems and codes of honor in a village in northern India, The Good Girls returns to the scene of Padma and Lalli's short lives and shameful deaths, and dares to ask: what is the human cost of shame?


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By the award-winning writer of Beautiful Thing, a masterly inquest into how the mysterious deaths of two teenage girls shone a light into the darkest corners of a nation. The girls' names were Padma and Lalli, but they were so inseparable that people in the village called them Padma Lalli. Sixteen-year-old Padma sparked and burned. Fourteen-year-old Lalli was an incorrigib By the award-winning writer of Beautiful Thing, a masterly inquest into how the mysterious deaths of two teenage girls shone a light into the darkest corners of a nation. The girls' names were Padma and Lalli, but they were so inseparable that people in the village called them Padma Lalli. Sixteen-year-old Padma sparked and burned. Fourteen-year-old Lalli was an incorrigible romantic. They grew up in Katra Sadatganj, an eye-blink of a village in western Uttar Pradesh crammed into less than one square mile of land. It was out in the fields, in the middle of mango season, that the rumors started. Then one night in the summer of 2014 the girls went missing; and hours later they were found hanging in the orchard. Who they were, and what had happened to them, was already less important than what their disappearance meant to the people left behind. In the ensuing months, the investigation into their deaths would implode everything that their small community held to be true, and instigate a national conversation about sex and violence. Slipping deftly behind political maneuvering, caste systems and codes of honor in a village in northern India, The Good Girls returns to the scene of Padma and Lalli's short lives and shameful deaths, and dares to ask: what is the human cost of shame?

30 review for The Good Girls: An Ordinary Killing

  1. 5 out of 5

    Shelleyrae at Book'd Out

    The Good Girls is a powerful, heartrending and compelling work of investigative journalism from award winning author Sonia Faleiro. On May 27th 2014, cousins and best friends 16 year old Padma* and 14 year old Lalli* went into the fields to relieve themselves before bedtime, as was their habit, and never returned. In the early hours of the morning their body’s were found hanging in the mango tree orchard belonging to their families in the tiny Indian village of Katra Sadatgani. And there they wou The Good Girls is a powerful, heartrending and compelling work of investigative journalism from award winning author Sonia Faleiro. On May 27th 2014, cousins and best friends 16 year old Padma* and 14 year old Lalli* went into the fields to relieve themselves before bedtime, as was their habit, and never returned. In the early hours of the morning their body’s were found hanging in the mango tree orchard belonging to their families in the tiny Indian village of Katra Sadatgani. And there they would remain for days as their family demanded justice. * The girls’ names have been changed in accordance with Indian law which requires that the identity of victims of certain crimes remain private. Drawing on official documents, news reports, and personal interviews, Faleiro attempts to piece together the events that led up to the girl’s deaths, and the extraordinary events that followed. Faleiro does her best to establish a timeline and unravel the often contradictory information that is a hallmark of this investigation. This is a complex case that involves a large number of people, and is forced to take into account issues of family structure, tradition, poverty, caste, religion, and political corruption to explain both its origin and its development. The Good Girls is not the easiest of reads, from a position of western privilege it’s confronting to learn about the circumstances in which Padma and Lalli lived. This not only includes their immediate environs in a village with no running water, sanitation, or electricity, but also a society that considers them as little more than chattel. Crimes against women, and girls, are ubiquitous in India, both in public and at home. Despite attempts to lawfully curb the violence (largely as a consequence of the ‘Delhi Bus Rape’ in 2012) when caste, tradition and religion insist that women are little more than the property of men, the law is often ignored, abetted by corrupt politicians and a venal police force who lack the skills, resources or motivation to investigate complaints. To be honest I have little faith in the official findings in this case, given the falsehoods, contradictions, and grievous errors that dogged every step of the investigation. I don’t think any conclusion can be reached with confidence, but I appreciate Faleiro’s attempt to shed light on what happened to Padma and Lalli. The Good Girls is a well written, disturbing yet fascinating narrative that provides insight not only into an individual tragedy, but also into a culture and a country. Incidentally I strongly suggest you don’t Google the case, or if you do be careful which articles you view as many are accompanied by a photo of the two girls hanging from the mango tree.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Smriti

    A more detailed review is up on my YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/akivu0fLzpc In the summer of 2014, in the Badaun district of Uttar Pradesh, just a few hours away from the nation’s capital, two girls were reported missing. In the morning, their bodies were found hanging from a tree. The image of the two young girls hanging from a tree is seared into a lot of people’s memories. We may not remember it as often, but it is hard to forget. Two young girls - renamed Padma and Lalli, 16 and 14 year A more detailed review is up on my YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/akivu0fLzpc In the summer of 2014, in the Badaun district of Uttar Pradesh, just a few hours away from the nation’s capital, two girls were reported missing. In the morning, their bodies were found hanging from a tree. The image of the two young girls hanging from a tree is seared into a lot of people’s memories. We may not remember it as often, but it is hard to forget. Two young girls - renamed Padma and Lalli, 16 and 14 years of age, had gone to defecate in the fields and never returned. A search party was sent out and it was said that a young boy by the name of Pappu had kidnapped them. However, as day broke, the two bodies of the girls were found hanging from a tree in an orchard. The book itself reads like an actual crime thriller with it chronologically telling us the story with a lot of reveals and twists in the tale. And trust me there were A LOT! With the shoddy job by the police, the unreliable and contrasting witness statements, there was just a lot happening in this case. (in a good way for us readers, in a not so good way for the people dealing with it) I also really appreciated how this book not only told us just about the crime but also about cases relevant to the ongoing procedures of the crime and more. It also gave you an insight to society - especially the way things work in rural Uttar Pradesh and their thoughts in terms of women, politics, etc. So in the end, you learnt not only about the case itself but of so many other things that shape our nation. I found the book to be super educational and informative. I also found it to be fast paced and extremely well written - the writing was simple and it kept you hooked. Definitely recommend it. I gave the book 4.5 stars. ✨ I was given this book in exchange for an honest review by the publisher.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Krutika Puranik

    • r e c o m m e n d a t i o n • I finished reading The Good Girls sometime last week but my mind refused to write a review. My immediate feeling was that of shock. Shock from learning the incompetent manner in which the investigation was carried out. But quickly, it shifted to anger; the kind that threatens to erupt at any given moment. Anger that the girls' dignity was stripped off even in their death. For many Indian families 'honour' becomes more precious than their children. Defying honour wi • r e c o m m e n d a t i o n • I finished reading The Good Girls sometime last week but my mind refused to write a review. My immediate feeling was that of shock. Shock from learning the incompetent manner in which the investigation was carried out. But quickly, it shifted to anger; the kind that threatens to erupt at any given moment. Anger that the girls' dignity was stripped off even in their death. For many Indian families 'honour' becomes more precious than their children. Defying honour will lead to only one thing. Death. And this burdenous thing called honour is placed on the heads of daughters, asking them to never drop it no matter what. But men can do as they please, honour or not. In 2014, two teenage girls were found hanging from a mango tree in Katra Sadatgani in UP. Perhaps it was eerie setting in which they were found that the incident went viral on social media. Padma* (16) and Lalli*(14) were two peas in a pod, first cousins and often inseparable. The circumstances and controversy surrounding their death drew the attention of the villagers and the orchard in which they were found ultimately became a tourist sight. Faleiro, carefully dissects the events leading up to the death of the girls and provides a detailed analysis of what went wrong. When villagers noticed the two girls on their phones (which itself was a rare vision), gossip ran freely. Caste system plays a significant role even now, to an extent where honour killings are openly carried out. Where caste differences exist, there lies enmity and suspicion. People are accused for the deaths of the girls before the investigation could even begin. With a barely functional police force and a dilapidated hospital, the case was a significant mess. Lies floated around like moats of dust making it impossible for the truth to come out. The research that has gone into this book is tremendous and it shows. It's crisp and to the point but Faleiro still manages to make it sentimental. She highlights corruption that very much prevails in our justice system and the rate of crimes against women. What happened to Padma and Lalli will forever remain a mystery; like the death of thousands of other girls.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kimba Tichenor

    In 2014, two young Indian girls were discovered hanging from a mango tree not far from their village in Uttar Pradesh. The women of the family refused to allow the bodies to be taken down, knowing that the only way to get justice for their girls was to create a media storm. If the media did not arrive, the two deceased girls, like so many dead girls before them, would be forgotten -- lost in India's complex and corrupt criminal justice system that places little value on the lives of girls. Ultim In 2014, two young Indian girls were discovered hanging from a mango tree not far from their village in Uttar Pradesh. The women of the family refused to allow the bodies to be taken down, knowing that the only way to get justice for their girls was to create a media storm. If the media did not arrive, the two deceased girls, like so many dead girls before them, would be forgotten -- lost in India's complex and corrupt criminal justice system that places little value on the lives of girls. Ultimately their deaths did not prove to be a case of kidnapping and rape, as first supposed and as is so common in India. But the events that informed their death were no less disturbing, as they suggest that poor girls in India are no more safe at home than they are out in the world. The year that Padma and Lalli went missing, 12, 361 people were kidnapped in Uttar Pradesh and across the country a child went missing every 8 minutes. Author and journalist Sonia Faleiro painstakingly interweaves the various threads of this complex story about what it means to be female and poor in India -- a country that has rapidly modernized but where the lives of its poorest citizens are largely unchanged. In villages, such as Katra where the two girls resided, women have some education but are forbidden from working. Their behavior and their lives remain determined by unwritten codes of honor. People have cell phones, but still do not have indoor plumbing, instead squatting out in the fields. It is world where despite economic transformation in the cities, caste rules are still followed in the villages and where people have no reason to trust the police, who are as likely to abuse them as to help them. It is also a place where protecting the family honor outweighs the welfare of young girls or the discovery of truth. While at times the author's attention to detail may be overwhelming, especially for the reader unfamiliar with Indian culture or politics, it is a remarkable piece of investigative journalism that shows the impact of honor codes, political maneuverings, systemic corruption, caste rules, and poverty at the most intimate level -- cutting short the lives of two young girls. I would like to thank the author, the publisher, and NetGalley for an advance copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Areeb Ahmad (Bankrupt_Bookworm)

    "What made the difference, then, was the highly emotive image of the girls hanging in the tree. Urban Indians first saw it on social media, the place where they went to read the news and debate it. They wanted something to latch on to, to vent their personal frustrations over India's inability to change quickly enough, and the picture was it. Padma and Lalli could have been anyone's children. They were, obviously, blameless." I hazily remember the Summer, 2014. It was May and I was in Class X, av "What made the difference, then, was the highly emotive image of the girls hanging in the tree. Urban Indians first saw it on social media, the place where they went to read the news and debate it. They wanted something to latch on to, to vent their personal frustrations over India's inability to change quickly enough, and the picture was it. Padma and Lalli could have been anyone's children. They were, obviously, blameless." I hazily remember the Summer, 2014. It was May and I was in Class X, avoiding studying for my Boards. Social media was where it initially spread and soon news channels and papers were discussing it too. Two girls had disappeared from a small village, Katra Sadatganj in Badaun district of Uttar Pradesh. They had stepped out to relieve themselves at night & never returned. After hours of frenzied searching, their bodies were found hanging from a tree early morning the next day. The horrific 2012 Delhi Bus Rape Case was still fresh in people's minds so this new case captured the collective consciousness. Faleiro, living in London at the time, got to know of it on Twitter. She had been planning a book on rape in India & adopted this as the centerpiece. She approaches the subject with astounding sensitivity and care, ensuring that she is representative of all viewpoints. Structured as a quasi-thriller with short named chapters, the book is never not gripping and quite easy to read. Using the case, she comments on hetero-patriarchy, access to toilets, lack of good education, poverty, political callousness, class divides, ideas of honour and shame that plague rural as well as urban spaces. From Mathura to Bhanwari Devi to Jyoti Singh, she tries to showcase what women in this country have been facing daily for decades. Moving from the anecdotal to facts and figures, Faleiro presents a moving instance of investigative journalism, drawing attention to the chillingly mundane nature of such tragic incidents. At its heart lies a fervent demand for change, the right to hopes and dreams. (I received a finished copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

  6. 4 out of 5

    Vivek Tejuja

    Faleiro had heard about the Badaun killings on Twitter, in the year 2014, as did most of us. It shook her to this extent that she decided to go the village of Katra in the Badaun district in Uttar Pradesh where the death of two teenage girls, who were also cousins, took place. The picture that circulated on social media was that of them hanging from a mango tree, whose memory is etched in so many minds and hearts. Though momentarily forgotten perhaps, it can be conjured in an instant. Between 20 Faleiro had heard about the Badaun killings on Twitter, in the year 2014, as did most of us. It shook her to this extent that she decided to go the village of Katra in the Badaun district in Uttar Pradesh where the death of two teenage girls, who were also cousins, took place. The picture that circulated on social media was that of them hanging from a mango tree, whose memory is etched in so many minds and hearts. Though momentarily forgotten perhaps, it can be conjured in an instant. Between 2014 and 2019, Faleiro interviewed everyone connected with the deaths to produce a story in which there are different perspectives – each struggling to make themselves heard, each hustling for credibility. Whether it is a cousin who claimed to have seen the girls getting kidnapped by Pappu Yadav, a 19-year old from the neighbouring village. Or whether it was someone else who had claimed to have spotted Pappu with the girls (who are known as Padma and Lalli in the book). Or whether it was the parents and relatives of these girls who didn’t act soon enough, scared that their honour will be at stake. Well, at the end of the day, the truth is that the girls were dead. The Good Girls: An Ordinary Killing by Sonia Faleiro is not just an investigative book or a “non-fiction novel” as some would seem it to be. It is a chronicle of what women go through in the country on a daily basis, and this isn’t just restricted to one region or is a function of being educated or not. The brutal rape and murder of Jyoti Singh in 2012 is a testament of that fact. The Good Girls is a book that holds no judgement. It is about the facts, and yet Faleiro’s writing is so strong and insightful that you cannot help but feel overwhelmed in most places while reading. The idea that two teenage girls – children really, died before their time. The idea that they could not lead full lives. The idea that we give so much importance to factors such as caste, honour, about how a girl should be and should not be, that we forget to consider life – the very basic essence of life and living. Sonia Faleiro’s book is about the India that is still struggling with so much – patriarchy, lack of education for women and girls, poverty being the biggest issue (which most , maybe even all politicians turn a blind eye to or very conveniently use it to their advantage), about lack of faith not only in the judiciary system but also in the workings of the police and safety that cannot be trusted, and about the way we treat our women and men at the same time. The Good Girls: An Ordinary Killing – just the very title says so much. Something that is so chilling, and yet only so ordinary that it could take place on an almost daily basis (and maybe does) and yet apathy is supreme. Sonia Faleiro also without taking any side goes to the heart of that apathy and indifference through this work that chronicles the brutality, that takes place more on a mental and emotional level. Faleiro’s writing is to the point. All facts and suppositions (that sprung from various narratives) are laid out for the reader. Everything is in plain sight. The Good Girls: An Ordinary Killing never lets us forget that at the heart of it – of all that occurred, two teenage girls, two children really, with so much life, and possibility and a future, lost their lives to patriarchy and its machinations.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Aoife

    I received this book from the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. In 2014, two young girls from a village in Utar Pradesh were reported missing. Their bodies were later found hanging from a tree in a nearby orchard and their families refused to move them, proclaiming the girls raped and murdered. In The Good Girls, Sonia Faleiro takes a look at the case of the girls she names Padma and Lalli and where everything went wrong with their case from the very start, from the momen I received this book from the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. In 2014, two young girls from a village in Utar Pradesh were reported missing. Their bodies were later found hanging from a tree in a nearby orchard and their families refused to move them, proclaiming the girls raped and murdered. In The Good Girls, Sonia Faleiro takes a look at the case of the girls she names Padma and Lalli and where everything went wrong with their case from the very start, from the moment they took too long to come back from the fields they used for their toilet. The book also acts as a lens into the way sexual assault is viewed in India, and how difficult it still is to fairly investigate and charge culprits for. What I appreciated about this book is the real look it took into how girls are treated in India, and i particular the poorer villages and families in India. A girl's honor is everything - to the point that when it was deemed Padma and Lalli had most likely died by suicide, people thought to themselves, "well, how could they have LET themselves live" after certain aspects of the case and potential sexual relationships came to light. "And so, just like that, in less than an hour since they were gone, Padma was no longer the quick-tempered one. Lalli was no longer the faithful partner in crime. Who they were, and what had happened to them, was already less important than what their disappearance meant to the status of the people left behind." It also is such an eye-opener on how so many people still live today and it's heartbreaking. Truly. There were times I woudl forget these events only took place 6 years ago because the way people lived felt like decades, if not a century ago. The poverty, the lack of education, the stifling and control of young women (for example it's improper for a girl to talk on a mobile phone?!), was just so backward. I don't think this book was structured as well as it could have been. It felt a bit all over the place for me at times but I do have to point out that the author was dealing with a lot of reports and information - of which there were a lot of contradictory statements (the main eyewitness changed his statement a number of times, and still doesn't really seem to know what he actually saw that night). There's also a bit in here around the Indian caste system and some Indian politics which is just a minefield, even if you do know a bit about it. So that was something that left my brain feeling jumbled. I'm honestly not 100% sure if I'd recommend it to everyone to read - I think some people will like and others will be turned off by how all over the place the story and the case is.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer (JC-S)

    People called them Padma Lalli like they were one person.’ On 27 May 2014, in the village of Katra Sadatgani in Uttar Pradesh, India, two teenaged girls went into the fields to relieve themselves before bed. They did not return. In the early hours of the following morning, their bodies were found hanging from a mango tree in the orchard tended by their families. Their bodies were to remain in that tree for some time. We know those two girls as sixteen-year-old Padma* and fourteen-year-old Lalli*. People called them Padma Lalli like they were one person.’ On 27 May 2014, in the village of Katra Sadatgani in Uttar Pradesh, India, two teenaged girls went into the fields to relieve themselves before bed. They did not return. In the early hours of the following morning, their bodies were found hanging from a mango tree in the orchard tended by their families. Their bodies were to remain in that tree for some time. We know those two girls as sixteen-year-old Padma* and fourteen-year-old Lalli*. They were cousins and best friends. *We do not know their real names as there is an Indian law which requires that the identity of the victims of certain crimes is kept private. The irony: a law which affords victims more privacy in death than they were ever accorded in life. In this book, Ms Faleiro draws on official documents, interviews, and news reports to try to establish a timeline of events within the context of the environment in which the girls lived. Ms Faleiro describes the physical setting: a poor village, with no running water or sanitation (which is why the girls had to relieve themselves in the field); a rigid family structure, shaped by caste, custom and religion; and mistrust of (often corrupt) authorities. This is a confronting and uncomfortable read. The girls are left hanging in the mango tree because their families believe that this is necessary in order to obtain justice. And once the girls are removed from the tree, inept handling and forensic processes mean mistakes are made, and erroneous conclusions are reached. Contradictory information is given by those interviewed; assumptions are made. The death of the girls is devastating for those left behind. But at every step the investigation is hampered. Honour becomes more important than truth. What really happened to Padma and Lalli? I doubt that we will ever know. In writing about this case, Ms Faleiro illustrates the complexity of life in India, the prevalence of crimes against women, the impact of tradition, and how mistrust shapes both investigation and witness accounts. I finished this book wondering whether the situation has improved since Padma and Lalli died. This is not an easy book to read both because of the content and the amount of detail provided. The detail is necessary but can feel overwhelming. ‘Finally, while this is a story about the marginalisation and subjugation of women in India, it is also about what it means to be poor.’ Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Grove Press for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes. Jennifer Cameron-Smith

  9. 4 out of 5

    Patricia

    THE GOOD GIRLS is a very powerful read. This book contains the story of the deaths of two girls 14 and 16 years old. They are from poor families from India with a serious caste system, and they are female. Written by a serious journalist, this book is very eye opening!

  10. 5 out of 5

    RoshReviews

    In May 2014, at a remote hamlet named Katra in the Badaun district of western Uttar Pradesh, two young girls were found hanging from a mango tree in a neighbour's orchard. This incident is infamous in recent history as the 2014 Badaun rape. The two girls, given pseudonyms of Padma and Lalli in this book to cater to government rules of not naming victims of sexual assaults, were 16 and 14 years old. The elder girl had been taken out of school after the 8th grade and her family was looking out for In May 2014, at a remote hamlet named Katra in the Badaun district of western Uttar Pradesh, two young girls were found hanging from a mango tree in a neighbour's orchard. This incident is infamous in recent history as the 2014 Badaun rape. The two girls, given pseudonyms of Padma and Lalli in this book to cater to government rules of not naming victims of sexual assaults, were 16 and 14 years old. The elder girl had been taken out of school after the 8th grade and her family was looking out for a suitable match for her when they incident occurred. After the bodies were found hanging, the family opted for an unexpected method of seeking relief: they refused to allow the bodies to be brought down until justice was served. With the information I've given you so far, assuming you have no detailed memory of the actual case, you would have reached your own conclusions about the girls' deaths. I did too when the book started. And I was proven wrong, again and again. You must have read thrillers with unreliable narrators. Now imagine a true life story with unreliable narrators who seem to have their own private agenda behind everything they publicly claim. Who/what do you believe? This book doesn't offer you an insight into sexual assaults against women or caste rivalries or political manipulations or police mishandling of cases or the medical bungling in the hinterland, though all of these are included to varying degrees. What it gives you is a detailed timeline of what happened on May 27th 2014 up to a few months later. You feel like you are a part of the ongoing investigation and the happenings around you are spinning out of control. You won't understand whom to trust, you won't know whom to point fingers at, you won't understand where to hit your head in frustration. You would assume that two girls disappearing in the middle of the night would unify everyone in the quest to locate them. But no, there are still so many things to consider first: the family name, the girls' reputation, the fear of police, the caste of the possible kidnappers... You just keep taking in fact after fact, hoping to make sense of the situation. But you won't be able to. Because whatever happened is utterly, shamefully senseless and your urban mind simply won't be able to digest the ridiculous thinking that passes in the name of honour in this country. I couldn't read the book at a stretch though I found it difficult to keep aside. I kept needing breathers to calm myself down because some of the scenes were simply too aggravating. Even something that I take for granted in my life - a mobile phone - took on a very different meaning when viewed from the eyes of these villagers. The author has done a lot of research and it shows. I don't know how far this book will work for a non-Indian reader. The casteist mentality is something only we will understand (to whatever extent it can be justifiably understood.) Though the author has a tendency to include too much information at times, I felt it was necessary so that even those without an understanding of how rural India functions will be able to get the situation as it unfolded. She doesn't hesitate in calling a spade a spade. I admire her for going to the heartland of the case and interviewing all the people involved, in spite of knowing their mentality about women. That was brave! There are some grammatical errors in the book but I kept those aside willingly; this is one instance where the content is more important than the language. Don't read this to know what girls go through in this country; you already know that. Read it to understand the psyche of people in rural India, especially of men when it comes to the women in their lives. You must have heard the term "comedy of errors" many times. This book will give you an example of a "tragedy of errors." As regards Padma and Lalli, they will forever be enshrined as "the good girls"; you will know the significance of my statement only if you read the book. Thank you, NetGalley and Grove Atlantic, for the Advanced Review Copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. *********************** Join me on the Facebook group, Readers Forever! , for more reviews, book-related discussions and fun. Follow me on Instagram: RoshReviews

  11. 5 out of 5

    Bhavsi

    Reading The Good Girls by Sonia Faleiro is a harrowing experience. It is a tremendous feat of literary and investigative journalism. The Good Girls investigates the real story behind the shocking discovery of two deceased teenage girls hanging from a mango tree in their village in Uttar Pradesh, India in 2014. Their story is told through the experiences and reports of their family members, neighbours, the government authorities, investigators and even power-hungry politicians. The Shakya cousins Reading The Good Girls by Sonia Faleiro is a harrowing experience. It is a tremendous feat of literary and investigative journalism. The Good Girls investigates the real story behind the shocking discovery of two deceased teenage girls hanging from a mango tree in their village in Uttar Pradesh, India in 2014. Their story is told through the experiences and reports of their family members, neighbours, the government authorities, investigators and even power-hungry politicians. The Shakya cousins’ story is not singular nor uncommon, however their story is widespread because their families refused to let their bodies be taken down from the mango tree where they were discovered until higher powers in India got involved. The families’ defiance shook their village and the rest of India, then the world as images of their dutiful daughters in their sinister state were shared on social media forcing vast media coverage. Claims of gang-rape similar to the abhorrent Delhi bus rape case of 2012 and murder circulated. Witness statements were fabricated only to be withdrawn then fabricated again. Confusion, class wars and inappropriate handling of the case by unqualified and corrupted individuals created chaos in solving the case. Sonia Faleiro covers all of the facts of the case as well as the lives of Padma and Lalli, the victims. She provides a detailed account of India’s political, economic and social landscape in relation to rural India and past, widely-known crimes against women specifically of the sexual nature. Her writing forces the reader to face the facts while simultaneously holding onto the hope of resolve only to be slammed with India’s warped justice system. This non-fiction reads like a whodunit and pulls the reader in. This book is devastating and deeply distressing. But I am obligated to state that this is one story out of millions. It is unbearable to imagine the millions of girls who have heinous things done to them every day. This book reminded me of why I read. I read to understand the stories that feel so alien to my own lived experience and yet they happen in my own homeland. Women in our world, (developed or otherwise) must first survive that which should support them only to face a world that denies them basic human rights hindering their ability to dream. Or hope. What kind of a life would you have without hope? One of the best 2021 releases I’ve read. The Good Girls is available in Canada on February 23rd, 2021. Thank you to NetGalley, Penguin Random House Canada and Sonia Faleiro for this advance review copy.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sonali Ekka

    In 2014, I had heard about the Badaun case when news reports had hogged TV channels for days: first they said it was rape, then honor killing, then suicide. As always, the incident was covered endlessly & suddenly it all stopped. I didn’t even know the final verdict. Later, many other such incidents would be covered in vulgar details for weeks & stop abruptly. All that remained in my memory were: reported sexual crimes against women, UP, casteism, corruption & powerplay. This book is an eye opene In 2014, I had heard about the Badaun case when news reports had hogged TV channels for days: first they said it was rape, then honor killing, then suicide. As always, the incident was covered endlessly & suddenly it all stopped. I didn’t even know the final verdict. Later, many other such incidents would be covered in vulgar details for weeks & stop abruptly. All that remained in my memory were: reported sexual crimes against women, UP, casteism, corruption & powerplay. This book is an eye opener for those like me, who are drowned with a barrage of news about such incidents but don’t really learn the truth. Sonia Faleiro writes the story of the Badaun case. She writes in great detail about the two sisters & their families, their lives, and the exact sequence of events that happened. But this isn’t a whodunnit because the case was never simple to begin with. Sonia writes about the various factors which made this case complicated & practically difficult to solve: the extreme suppression of women; the prevalent societal norms & customs; the difficult rural life made worse due to poverty, illiteracy, unemployment & poor infrastructure; corrupt and ineffective leaders; underfunded police force, hospitals & investigative agencies; casteism; irresponsible news media. Only the deceased sisters are the true victims in Sonia’s story, the only good people, the good girls. Everyone else is flawed to an extent, if not directly guilty of the murder/suicide. This book is perfectly composed. It runs in sequence as the incidents occurred, but it digresses a little to cover related topics like the Nirbhaya case, or relevant subplots of other characters. Her narration style takes the reader straight to where the incidents happened. This is one of the most unbiased narratives of any true crime, that I have ever read. For every party involved, even the cops & the accused, Sonia has presented the good & the bad. This is also one of the most well researched book I’ve ever read. Sonia took 4 years on this book. Every chapter has a list of references in the end. The sisters died in the dead of the night, but their bodies were left hanging long enough to become a public spectacle, as photos of their bodies were circulated online. It’s only fair that their stories get publicized too, so that at least Indians are aware of how women in their country live. A highly recommended book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    TBHONEST

    The Good Girls grips you from the first page. It makes you think, it makes you feel many emotions, as the story of the two girls unfolds. It's a compelling and thought provoking read that leaves you questioning what you believe and think. The good Girls is a book that is one that would incite some interesting discussion in a book club and one which you will want to pass on to and discuss with friends and colleagues. The Good Girls grips you from the first page. It makes you think, it makes you feel many emotions, as the story of the two girls unfolds. It's a compelling and thought provoking read that leaves you questioning what you believe and think. The good Girls is a book that is one that would incite some interesting discussion in a book club and one which you will want to pass on to and discuss with friends and colleagues.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Deepa

    What is the shame worth? This the question that kept nagging me a day and night after I turned the last page of this book. The image is chilling - that of two teenaged girls hanging dead by a tree branch in an open field. What could have caused this? Who must have lead to this? How did things come to this? These are the questions @sonia.faleiro sets out to answer in her book ‘The Good Girls.’ She tries to be the objective journalist looking for answers, but how “objective” can one be when such tw What is the shame worth? This the question that kept nagging me a day and night after I turned the last page of this book. The image is chilling - that of two teenaged girls hanging dead by a tree branch in an open field. What could have caused this? Who must have lead to this? How did things come to this? These are the questions @sonia.faleiro sets out to answer in her book ‘The Good Girls.’ She tries to be the objective journalist looking for answers, but how “objective” can one be when such two young girls have been found hanging dead in a field. The girls had gone off to the field as their homes did not have proper sanitation facilities. Taken out of school the girls were expected to be married off soon. When they went missing their family feared more for their honour than for their safety. The police chowki was habitually incompetent and arrogant owing to the prevailing caste dynamics. But still, what could have caused this catastrophe where little girls had been unsafe in their own household? Every few pages the book kept introducing me to a rural India I wasn’t prepared for. One where not only did women amount to nothing, but men of caste had their own daily headaches. Caste and gender had morally, ethically and financially corrupted our system and the rot was now out in the open. In 2014, two teenagers, cousins, in Katra Sadatganj go missing one night. The next day they are found hanging by a tree in an open field. The imagery of this goes viral provoking the collective conscience of a people who had risen for Nirbhaya just two years back. However, all the “wokeness” had fallen short of preventing this incident and an incompetent system kept failing these girls time and again. It is nearly impossible to not be enraged for Padma and Lalli after reading this. And so, I urge all of you to please please please be enraged for them, for us and for more to come because we deserve better!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Wes

    The Good Girls: An Ordinary Killing by Sonia Faleiro I am so glad to have come across this book. The first non-fiction book of the year came as a blessing. 2020 was not a good year all around, but specifically, it wasn't a good reading year either. I am glad that this book came to me and I was able to sit with it and finish reading it in less than a day. It is a piece of gripping literature. One of the best narrative non-fiction books I've read that relies on an honest journalistic outlook while The Good Girls: An Ordinary Killing by Sonia Faleiro I am so glad to have come across this book. The first non-fiction book of the year came as a blessing. 2020 was not a good year all around, but specifically, it wasn't a good reading year either. I am glad that this book came to me and I was able to sit with it and finish reading it in less than a day. It is a piece of gripping literature. One of the best narrative non-fiction books I've read that relies on an honest journalistic outlook while also keeping a novelists eye for detail. Throughout the book, Sonia Faleiro makes critical comments about various aspects about society, caste, Indian politics, criminal investigations, corruption (sometimes, all in one page it would seem). The portraits of the people who played key roles are cutting and insightful. The manner is which she is able to keep an eye on caste and class differences and how these play up in the way people react are stunning. At the heart of it, this book is a feminist text, as Deepa Anappara pointed out. Sonia Faleiro does not forget the women that mainstream media often sideline. She keeps the quite neighborhood women, their innocent little daughters, and the mother who descends into madness in the picture. They watch, and we watch with them how a small amount of thought is given to them. They are allowed very little room to grieve. She writes about the moment when the women decided to put themselves at the base of the tree where the girls hung and thereby registered protest and brought national media attention. One of the best things about this book is how the writer does not let things get too technical. She is able to keep enough detail and ground her arguments and the narrative. For the dedicated reader, there are 20 pages of notes and bibliography to follow-up with. The writing also does not run the risk of having too much jargon. Lucidly written, the book is the product of four years, interviews with more than a hundred people, and reports that amounted to 3,272 pages. To say that it has been thoroughly researched, would be an understatement.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Prathyush Parasuraman

    Based on the 2014 Badaun (Ba-Da-Yun) Killings, this is a narrative non-fiction that linearly plots how the investigation begins, gets botched, and the attempts at repair and disrepair. Two girls, 14 and 16, walk into a field one night to defecate, and the next morning they are found hung from a tree. Was it rape? Honour killing? The concoction of misogyny, caste, the media circus, and the infrastructure that is at best, dysfunctional, provides the bedrock for this story. This is a very odd book. Based on the 2014 Badaun (Ba-Da-Yun) Killings, this is a narrative non-fiction that linearly plots how the investigation begins, gets botched, and the attempts at repair and disrepair. Two girls, 14 and 16, walk into a field one night to defecate, and the next morning they are found hung from a tree. Was it rape? Honour killing? The concoction of misogyny, caste, the media circus, and the infrastructure that is at best, dysfunctional, provides the bedrock for this story. This is a very odd book. The first 100 pages are uneasy in their pacing, and the detailing feels more of a show of journalistic rigour than creating an immersive world. But it is when the murder has taken place, and the investigation begins that the details snowball into creating a world that is at once important narratively, but even to create a mood- of dark humour, of despair, of resignation. Faleiro uses some very striking agricultural metaphors that are both distracting, but also beautiful-"belly was as full as a sack of watermelons", "like two grains of rice" "like overripe fruit". She's as thorough as one could be, given the circumstances, and there is a very narrative need to sound like the people she is writing about, which is great, but which also makes me wonder, what is Faleiro's voice like?

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Gray

    What really happened to Padma and Lalli in 2014? We'll never know- that's the clear message from this illuminating, thought provoking and distressing work of investigative journalism. Their village in Western Uttar Pradesh is a place I suspect few readers could find or want to spend time in. These two girls- cousins- disappeared one night and then were found hanging. They were failed, not only on that night, but by what went after. Girls are not valued here, and violence against them has been an What really happened to Padma and Lalli in 2014? We'll never know- that's the clear message from this illuminating, thought provoking and distressing work of investigative journalism. Their village in Western Uttar Pradesh is a place I suspect few readers could find or want to spend time in. These two girls- cousins- disappeared one night and then were found hanging. They were failed, not only on that night, but by what went after. Girls are not valued here, and violence against them has been and apparently continues to be ignored. These girls could have faded into the memories of their families but they are now part of the international dialogue. Faleiro makes them come to life. She also does an excellent job of exploring the caste system, honor codes, and the Indian legal system. The official investigation leaves much to be desired and Faleiro has tried to rectify that. Will her book make a difference? Likely not but it's important because it shines light on the seriousness of the situation for young women in this society. Thanks to the publisher for the ARC. Excellent if painful read.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tayana Rutherston

    I love the way Faleiro zooms in and out of the main narrative to bring in important social context regarding women’s rights in modern day India. The death of the girls is not fetished and the author does well to not dwell too strongly on ‘who done it’- because this is not the point. The case of the Katra girls tells us so much about the issues regarding caste, sexuality, family structures and the life of rural Indians. The death of the girls becomes a vessel to tell a much more harrowing tale. Th I love the way Faleiro zooms in and out of the main narrative to bring in important social context regarding women’s rights in modern day India. The death of the girls is not fetished and the author does well to not dwell too strongly on ‘who done it’- because this is not the point. The case of the Katra girls tells us so much about the issues regarding caste, sexuality, family structures and the life of rural Indians. The death of the girls becomes a vessel to tell a much more harrowing tale. The best part is the author’s notes at the end of the book- the perfect conclusion, giving the reader perspective and time to digest what has come in the preceding pages. This book is particularly relevant with regards to the farmer’s protests happening in India.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Victoria Wilks

    This is a truly compelling read that had me hooked from the first page!. Throughout this story, the author takes us through a range of emotions, and you really feel as though you are a part of this story as it begins to unfold. Full of intriguing characters, a well paced plot that is full of suspense and keeps you guessing right to the very end. This is certainly a book I will be telling my friends about!.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Zulekha Saqib

    'And so, just like that, in less than an hour since they were gone, Padma was no longer the quick-tempered one. Lalli was no longer the faithful partner in crime. Who they were, and what had happened to them, was already less important than what their disappearance meant to the status of the people left behind.' 'And so, just like that, in less than an hour since they were gone, Padma was no longer the quick-tempered one. Lalli was no longer the faithful partner in crime. Who they were, and what had happened to them, was already less important than what their disappearance meant to the status of the people left behind.'

  21. 5 out of 5

    Zoe Giles

    This non-fiction book follows the stories of two teenage girls in Uttar Pradesh, India in 2014, who disappeared one night and were found hanging from a tree the next morning. The family, having no faith in the local police, refused to allow the bodies to be taken down in order to gain national media attention and demand justice for their children. The ensuing months led to a battle on understanding the events that took place, and a focus on ideas of gender, sex, honour and violence throughout In This non-fiction book follows the stories of two teenage girls in Uttar Pradesh, India in 2014, who disappeared one night and were found hanging from a tree the next morning. The family, having no faith in the local police, refused to allow the bodies to be taken down in order to gain national media attention and demand justice for their children. The ensuing months led to a battle on understanding the events that took place, and a focus on ideas of gender, sex, honour and violence throughout India. This was a hauntingly sad case to read about which will leave you more informed on the position of women around the world and the gender oppression that has existed and still exists. The author uses this one case of Padma and Lalli as a way to illuminate larger issues of sexual violence, caste issues, and the problems of the corrupt and incompetent police force, medical field, and government. The book reads almost like non-fiction with the way the story is unravelled. It really comes across that the author has covered all bases in terms of interviewing the family of the victims and the accused, the police, reporters, neighbours and extended family, the medical team and more. There is a lot of information throughout this book and it could be hard to comprehend with all the various names, politics, and places that were mentioned, but in a way, this felt like a reflection of the complexity of fixing the issues prevalent in India. My heart broke for Padma and Lalli, but I came away from this book with a better understanding of the issues faced by women around the world. I was moved, hurt and angry, but I am more educated for it, and I would recommend this book to others on this basis.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Belinda Peters

    True crime docuemtary style book that is in equal parts shocking and heartbreaking: two girls in a village in India are found hanging in a tree one morning in May 2014. Who did it and why? Their friends, family, lovers, leaders? The answer could be anyone which makes the situation so terrifying. Racy and yet profound, disturbing but moving. Highly reccomended

  23. 5 out of 5

    Noorilhuda

    A sad, sad, irreconcilable, inevitable stinking wrench of a mea culpa tale. Impressed with the manner of storytelling and the level of foot-work research done for this true crime book which goes beyond the headlines, the derived-from-investigations material and required interviews, to reveal microscopic details of a people, their lives, characteristics and mindsets, traditions; an entire landscape of the policing, the politics, the investigations and the culture of each, defined more by the peop A sad, sad, irreconcilable, inevitable stinking wrench of a mea culpa tale. Impressed with the manner of storytelling and the level of foot-work research done for this true crime book which goes beyond the headlines, the derived-from-investigations material and required interviews, to reveal microscopic details of a people, their lives, characteristics and mindsets, traditions; an entire landscape of the policing, the politics, the investigations and the culture of each, defined more by the people heading each, than the requirements of the job to resolve the alleged crime. Extremely relatable and easy-to-understand for South Asian readers. Good one. Will leave you broken-hearted. Did not like: the author is heavily invested in the notion that life for village girls and women is a laborious one, diminishing and not telling what the boys and men do all day long, all their lives. A bit of a dramatic over-reach is when author claims that maybe her paths crossed with ‘Pappu’ (she never got to meet him). Weren’t there any pictures of him in papers or CBI reports for her to confirm what he looked like? Memorable passages / quotes: The image was shown on news channels. It migrated to Twitter where the outrage was viral. If social media conversations that morning were taken at face value, it seemed everyone was in favor of ending caste, patriarchy and gender violence, of bringing education, professional opportunities and toilets to rural women. If they had all those things, the comments implied then none of this might have happened. The hashtag #BuduanRape, referring to the district in which Katra village was located, started to trend. An editor at Times Now, the nation’s top-rated news channel, which had styled itself on America’s incendiary Fox News, later told a reporter, ‘We brought in a lot of what was happening in TV soap operas into the way we were treating our stories. We brought in alarmist music and a soundtrack to our reportage.’ To the men it appeared as though the girls had been killed. Why else would they be in a tree? Lala Ram had been doing this job for almost two decades , but he wasn’t at all qualified to do it. For years, he had worked alongside his father Bulaki, skipping school to tend to animals and crops.....In 1992, he was sweeping, washing and disinfecting the post-mortem house. Three years later, when the person whose job it was the examine dead bodies quit, Lala Ram was asked to step in. He obviously didn’t have a medical degree, but neither did his predecessor......Hospital records continued to list him as ‘grade four’ employee, a category reserved for unskilled labourers of low rank, such as sweepers. The first time Lala Ram found himself alone in the post-mortem house he looked around for a set of medical instruments. He found none, because the hospital couldn’t afford them. So, just like the man before him, he set off to the bazaar and purchased knives, a hammer, a wooden mallet, some needles, a spool of thread and a set of scales from a vegetable vendor. He liked to work in slippers because blood washed easily from rubber. In 2014, the (new post-mortem) building was finally ready, and hospital doctors flocked to admire the well-equipped rooms.....But it was inevitable tat things wouldn’t go according to plan....Hospital personnel claimed they couldn’t find anyone to guard it at night....Thieves pounced....It was only a matter of time, the beleaguered Lala Ram said, before they marched off with the front door. Finally, someone offered the police his wedding video to tape over.....The tape ran out and the videographer slipped in a new one. This second tape had been used to record a music and dance performance. The girls’ hair was neat. Their glass bangles were intact. Since they couldn’t control crime, they controlled the number of reported crimes. Police officers spoke of a ‘blanket ban’ and ‘monthly maximum quotas’ to keep crime statistics low, allowing the party in power to boast that they were at least doing better than their predecessors......And yet, thousands of girls were reported kidnapped or abducted in UP in 2014. Some were taken for ransom, others were murdered....There were 7,338 cases of kidnapping and abduction just for ‘marriage’ according to the National Crime Records Bureau. In 1972, a teenager (in Maharashtra) had walked into a police station to settle a dispute ad was only allowed to leave after the police officer had sexually assaulted her. Her name was Mathura and she was an orphan who belonged to an indigenous community......(Supreme Court acquitted all accused, when law put burden of proof on the victim) .....The transcript read: ‘[....] no marks of injury were found on the person of the girl after the incident and their absence goes a long way to indicate that the alleged intercourse was a peaceful affair and that the story of the stiff resistance having been put up by the girl is all false. It is further clear that the averments on the part of the girl that she had been shouting loudly for help are also a tissue of lies.’ “Why should we hide our daughter’s name? Asha Devi said. “My daughter was not at fault. And by hiding crimes, we only allow more crimes to take place.....We are proud of our daughter. She got immortalised as ‘Nirbhaya’.....Memories are paiful but her name will serve as a reminder to the society to never let such things recur.. I say this in front of you all that her name was Jyoti Singh.” (In Bhanwari Devi case) Accused (Gujjars from her village in Rajasthan) were acquitted on the grounds that ‘a member of the higher caste cannot rape a member of lower caste because of reasons of purity,’ The day she met the Shakya family, Maywati - whose net worth was estimated at 15.6million USD - gave Lalli’s father Sohan Lal and Padma’s father Jeevan Lal 5 lakh rupees each, in cash. Another party gave them 5.5 lakh rupees each, also in cash. On 1 June, Sohan Lal’s bank balance was zero rupees. By 5 June, it was 10.5 lakh rupees. The family accepted other sums of money, large and small, from leaders of diverse ideological backgrounds. The prime minister tweeted constantly in the days after the hangings. He tweeted about football, Bhutan, organic farming, Vladimir Putin, blood donation, and World Environment Day, but he didn’t mention Katra. Hindu boys in RSS shakhas, writes the scholar Taika Sarkar, are bred on a steady diet of legends - ‘Partition-time rapes of Hindu women, rapes of Hindu queens under Muslim rule, [and] abductions of Hindu women all through history by Muslims.’ In 2007, Modi named one of the leading (Gujarat) rioters, who was later convicted for her role in killing 97 people, as his junior minister for women and child development. He readily agreed on the condition that he could implicate someone he strongly disliked in the kidnapping. ...the girls were alive at the time they climbed the tree. And they had climbed it themselves. The girls’ bodies were virtually pristine. (Dr. Rajiv Gupta) It was then confirmed that the boy had been found being intimate with the girl. Her family, to protect their daughter’s honour, had claimed that she had been raped. Then, to protect their honour, they had paid the jailer and some of his men to kill the (fifteen-year old) boy. A tainted girl tainted the village, people said. What was happening in the Shakya household wouldn’t just be a failure of parenting, but of citizenship. The record showed an exchange of 377 calls between Pappu’s phone and one of the Shakya’s phones. The calls covered a period of six months. A further 48 calls were exchanged between Pappu’s phone and a second Shakya phone. An Indian woman’s first challenge was surviving her own home. - Sonia Faleiro, Author

  24. 4 out of 5

    Parul Arora

    Superb true crime mystery set in a village in India; reads like a thriller!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rajni Mattoo

    Thank you NetGalley for my advance copy in exchange of an honest review. I found The Good Girls fast paced, chilling and excellently written. The non-fiction book about the death of two girls who were found hanging in a mango tree in the summer on 2014 was unputdownable for me. I finished it in one night.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lena Simon

    Very powerful, vividly written true account of what happened on the night two teenage girls went missing in India. Won't be able to get it out of my mind for a very long time. Very powerful, vividly written true account of what happened on the night two teenage girls went missing in India. Won't be able to get it out of my mind for a very long time.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mona

    Thank you, Edelweiss, for my e-ARC. I requested this book because it is set in India, my country of birth. I can relate to the culture...somewhat. Based on the 2014 Katra case, the true story of the disappearance and death of two young girls, the first few pages consist of maps and a list of characters(so MANY characters that it often became difficult to keep track of them). Also, the excessive statistics made for dry reading.  However, I did enjoy the vivid descriptions of the characters and sett Thank you, Edelweiss, for my e-ARC. I requested this book because it is set in India, my country of birth. I can relate to the culture...somewhat. Based on the 2014 Katra case, the true story of the disappearance and death of two young girls, the first few pages consist of maps and a list of characters(so MANY characters that it often became difficult to keep track of them). Also, the excessive statistics made for dry reading.  However, I did enjoy the vivid descriptions of the characters and setting. Although the case itself was disturbing, compelling and a story that needed to be told, its shock value was reduced by the inordinate amount of information.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Leanne

    Best true crime book I have read this year. Heartbreaking, powerful story of two girls found hanging in a mango tree one day and the twists abs turns in the investigation that follows. Reminded me of The Serial podcast and also the Netflix documentary The Staircase. Quite chilling but also gripping from beginning to end. Read in one sitting!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lata

    Suspenseful true crime story that exposes social and cultural ills while meticulously and empathetically investigating the case of two missing girls in India.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Vansa

    In 2014, the (fairly hysterical and sensationalist ) Indian media started reporting on the deaths of 2 girls in Badaun, a district in Uttar Pradesh, that's a 6 hours drive from Delhi. There were constant replays of the extremely disturbing images of the girls' bodies, and it was reported as a gang-rape, with talking heads giving us their 2 cents worth day and night for about a month. Then, as usual, it was completely forgotten about. A year later, the CBI reported the results of their investigat In 2014, the (fairly hysterical and sensationalist ) Indian media started reporting on the deaths of 2 girls in Badaun, a district in Uttar Pradesh, that's a 6 hours drive from Delhi. There were constant replays of the extremely disturbing images of the girls' bodies, and it was reported as a gang-rape, with talking heads giving us their 2 cents worth day and night for about a month. Then, as usual, it was completely forgotten about. A year later, the CBI reported the results of their investigation and declared their deaths as suicides, and in the typical halfhearted manner of most reporting in India, we weren't told anything more. In a country where nearly 30 suicides are reported every day, the loss of these lives was added to those horrifying statistics. Sonia Faleiro, in the afterword to this book, writes of how this book started off as a book on sexual assault on women in India, when this happened, and you couldn't escape the coverage. She then decided to ground her research in this incident in Badaun, and travelled to India, spoke to as many people as she could, got access to as many records as were available. This book is the result of all those years of meticulous research, and it traces the incident in Badaun, from when it occurred, to the police investigation and the subsequent handover to the CBI. Through this, the author masterfully gives you an insight into how India truly functions, the long shadows of the caste system, over all aspects of life, from daily interactions to local governments to policing, and even forensics. I found this book a landmark in true crime-since it started off as a macroscopic work on sexual assault, the author shows you the very specific societal context that all led to this tragedy happening, and most importantly, how all of those affect policing, and can even lead to a perversion of justice. Her effective use of statistics drives the horror of it home, that this might be one devastating tragedy, but it will be repeated, when the social constructs that drove this remain the same. At no instance, however, does the reader lose sight of all the humans at the heart of this, their actions, and the fallout- the arrests made on the basis of caste, the disproportionate effect on women-restrictions on even the slightest of freedoms enjoyed by the women in the district, the need for some families to move fearing violent reprisals for a crime that didn't happen. Patriarchy and misogyny are so firmly entrenched that access to modern technology is firstly restricted mostly to men, and perverted to serve their needs. The benefits of wider access to new ways of thinking are completely ignored, because why would you want a world where your power was supposedly diminished by women no longer being under your thumb? The proximity of Badaun to the national capital hasn't made the slightest difference to centuries of social conditioning and the valorisation of "tradition" in Bollywood movies really hasn't helped either. Class and caste privilege could literally mean the difference between life and death. As I type out this review ( from my position of privilege), there are news reports of a girl killed by her family because she married someone from a different caste. It's deeply distressing to read, more young lives lost because women are trying to assert their agency, and it's a tragedy that's considered the crime, and not murder. This is the true heart of darkness- modes of thinking that lead to the deaths of so many young people. this is a vitally important book. Thanks a lot, NetGalley!

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