Meena Kandasamy – When I Hit You



Book 9/16 from the Women’s Prize Longlist.

The subject of domestic abuse is tricky in literature. From my experience the account could be so highly personal that one feels like a voyeur. Obviously one cannot make such acts humorous due to the serious topic. Kandasamy tackles this differently.


The reader is presented with a series of epigraphs, poems and then chunks of text detailing  four years with an abusive husband. At first the courtship begins with little warning signs, which the narrator ignores but then it escalates and each chapter focuses on the stages of abuse. First the husband bans the narrator from using e-mail, then a laptop to raping and hitting the protagonist.

However sordid this tale, Kandasamy approaches everything using inventive metaphors, and a use of language that is creative, not unlike Arundhati Roy, who is given a namecheck in this book. Here is a story about love gone completely wrong.

My edition of the novel has some writings which detail the type of reader the book is aimed for. The one that struck me, as a male, was the section stating that all males should see the book as a sort of warning sign and as a preventive tale. Personally throughout the novel I kept saying, ‘that’s not me’ and this little piece does reference that but really I should see it as a way to prevent myself becoming an abuser and in that aspect When I hit is a prefect warning.

Chances this will be shortlisted: oh yes!!!!

Other Women’s Prize Reviews:

Rachel Seiffert – A Boy in Winter

Nicola Barker – H(A)PPY

Jessie Greengrass – Sight

Gail Honeyman – Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Jesmyn Ward – Sing, Unburied, Sing.

Kamila Shamsie – Home Fire

Arundhati Roy – The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

Fiona Mozley – Elmet