‘To Frida With Love! Vignettes by Multiple Authors’ is a chapbook, published by Chrysanthemum Chronicles. It is one of the unique collections of books in the fiction genre that talks about the trials and tribulations Frida Kahlo goes through in prose style. A collection of eight vignettes written by eight Indian authors, the book takes us to the heart and soul of Frida Kahlo. The book has been conscientiously edited by Nandita De nee Chatterjee. The cover that has been designed by Monalisa Joshi, founder and director of Chrysanthemum Chronicle, looks bright and beautiful featuring the muse, Frida herself on the front and the back cover.
The editor of the book Nandita De introduces us to Frida Kahlo giving us a brief history of the iconic figure. Her foreword titled ‘Wounds and Vows’ throws a lot of light on the life of the Mexican painter. Since Frida may not be known to many on account of her foreign origin in India, Nanita De has brilliantly brought many facts about Frida, giving the readers a quick reference to her life span.
In the acknowledgement written by Monalisa Joshi, we realize how dreams do come true! Often, we come across the saying ‘If there is a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.’ This stands so true for her. As she mentions how she had been fascinated by Frida Kahlo and the book took shape as a result of her fascination with Frida’s character. The making of this chapbook began as a prompt on the Facebook Group Page of Chrysanthemum Chronicles. The virtual event took shape of a real book. It is indeed a moment of sheer joy that it finds a place in the very home of Frida in La Casa Azul in Mexico, making history as it is the first book published from India to showcase there.
The opening vignette is the award-winning one, which received the first prize in the online competition that was held on the Facebook page of Chrysanthemum Chronicles. Written by Alipi Das ‘No Reason At All’ brings out the agony of Frida in beautiful metaphors. ‘The brush swiftly darted between the palette and the frame, spraying the flamboyant shades of the bleeding core.’
“Stop it! The painter lady exclaimed. ’Who are you?”
“I am the extension of your character, the self of you is mine…”
The conversation continues entrancing the readers as Alipi brings out the pain and agony of Frida.
La Casa Azul by Nandita De nee Chaterjee is another brilliant piece in the chapbook. The very opening line ‘Dear Frida, (the canvas whispers) sets up the stage for the magical tale she spins. Her vignette has literally retold the story of Frida Kahlo. Frida’s grit and courage are well brought out through her well-researched vignette in a very candid manner. The story of Frida told by the unfinished canvas has a lot to tell.
Gowri Bhargav’s ‘Frida’s Candid Conversation With Her Canvas’ is like a whiff of fresh air in the chapbook. Her poetic style of presentation wins the readers' hearts.
“I’m the song whose lyrics are unknown,
I'm the secret that lays concealed by the sands of time,
I'm the story that remains untold,
I'm the winter - frozen and numbed by pain,
I'm all that you cannot see..."
The words penned by her add a mystical charm and the vignette flows in the form of dialogues between the canvas and Frida. We get a feel of reading a short one-act play as the vignette unfolds.
'Testimony Of A Canvas' by Moushumi Bhattacharjee, is inspired by the famous Self Portrait With Thorn Necklace And Hummingbird. Needless to say, like all the contributing writers the choice of words and the flow of the vignette touch the core of the heart.
Rohini Jayanti's 'The Canvas-My Anchor' a dialogue-based vignette, talks about raw emotions. The canvas prompts and goads Frida to carry on despite all the hardship she suffers. Words like "In your adventure, you are the hero." "You have learned to fly solo, and yet fly to new heights and see new views." " Drop your baggage and let it go from your mind and heart." These positive affirmations fill Frida with new hope and make her fly with a sense of wonder and joy creating as many masterpieces as she could!
In 'My Letter to Frida Kahlo' Aditi Lahiry talks about how Frida's 'bold spirit inspired many young girls to voice out their feeling.' How Frida stands up again and again and displays her never give up attitude in her life. How Frida sets an example for other women. The vignette is indeed a blessing that brings out the positive side of the lesson we learn from a living being who goes through many tumultuous phases.
'A Surreal Life' by Shakuntala Kanakagiri, reflects the vibrancy and the zest for life that Frida goes through. 'You took to painting as a fish would take to water, diverting all your energy and attention from your physical torture.' The author takes the readers into Frida's life through her paintings and some of her famous quotations.
The writers have picked their pen and spoken from the point of view of canvas, colour, her house, paintings etc. Many of them have used Frida's paintings as an inspiration and through that, they have opened the windows of her innermost feelings twining with her emotions. As most of Frida’s paintings are autobiographical in nature and showcase her turbulent and tragic life, we get to know a lot about her. The book is beautifully laced with pictures of the paintings made by Frida that add to the mystical elements and gives the readers a chance to brood as they go through the vignettes and compare them with the words of the author and what the pictures depict.
Overall ‘To Frida With Love’ is an inspiring book that talks about not giving up hope. To stand up again and again and come what may carry on doing what one loves to do. There is a lot to learn from the life of Frida Kahlo. The writers have done a wonderful job of bringing out the silver light behind every dark cloud that came into Frida’s life.
The book is available on Amazon and Flipkart.
Review by Associate Editor Shristee Singh
Shristee Singh is currently working as an Associate Editor with Chrysanthemum Chronicles, a contemporary publishing house.
A postgraduate in economics, Shristee nurtures love for writing. Besides writing for
her blog Shristeesphere and Momspresso, she contributes to various literary forums.
Coming from St. Mary’s Convent, Ramnee Nainital, she had been a constant contributor to her school magazine. While in Isabella Thoburn College, Lucknow, she was recognized for her contribution to English Poetry at the Youth Festival of Lucknow Mahotsav. She had been a nominee for the Author of the Year 2019 at StoryMirror for her contribution towards English Literature.
She has been published in several anthologies; Out of the Woods and Poems from 30 Best Poets by Literaturelight, A Kaleidoscope of Asia by Asian Literary Society, Rewind by Artoonsinn Room9, Indian Summer in Verses by Plethora Blogzine now Chrysanthemum Chronicles, Arising from the Dust by The Archaic House Artoonsinn, Quilled by Patriotism and Roobaroo by Criticspace, Airavata by Mayakatha.
When not writing, you can find her either reading or running, either behind her kids or in some marathon!