The Women’s Courtyard is circumscribed by the borders of the courtyard, both in action and worldview. Situated in the turbulent – and significant – decade of the 1940s, it provides an inverted perspective on the Partition; Aliya’s aangan, or courtyard, is removed from what might be expected of a partition novel: it contains little, for example, of blood and violence, rape, genocide or murder. The Women’s Courtyard is conspicuously empty of the political ponderings and large national questions that played out, typically, in the arenas of men. Instead, it gives expression to the preoccupations of the women in the courtyard, fighting different battles with loud voices.
Indeed, the weight borne by stories in this book seems rather un-bear-able. Story after story is attributed a significance that it cannot really sustain. Part of this is the anthropological method of piling anecdote upon anecdote to drive home a thesis. But it is almost as though no one challenged the apportioning of weight to these anecdotes
These complexities are exemplified in the cover art; the patches of different shades of brown are reminiscent of skin tones: each different. Patel writes about each Indian-American immigrant like someone who has that life inside and out: as though he is writing from his own lived experience, which may well be the case.