Roshani Chokshi’s adult debut novel The Last Tale of the Flower Bride carries the gothic setting to otherworldly, a sentiment that is much too real, levels. Centered around the premise of an unnamed husband uncovering his mysterious wife’s secrets, the novel aptly reflects the phrase: “Curiosity killed the cat.” Its theme of domestic secrets nods to the Bluebeard tale, but The Last Tale of the Flower Bride also develops new understandings that play with the tropes of fairy tales and spin something completely new out of them.
The story Chokshi writes is self-referential, intertextual, and it makes use of hybridity in its gothic horror atmosphere and the supernatural Faery world. The Last Tale of the Flower Bride truly illustrates all the scholarly terms of self-awareness one learns about in storytelling and film classes. This academic bent makes sense given that the husband has devoted his career to studying myths. It’s no surprise that his wife seems like one, nor is it a surprise that reading The Last Tale of the Flower Bride feels like watching an incredibly absorbing film.
The curious bridegroom may be at the heart of the story, but he’s not the only focus. Indigo, his wife, is seductive and enigmatic: two words that often go together smoothly, as if the mystery is what makes one attractive. As the reader learns about Indigo through her husband’s eyes, we learn about who Indigo is through the perspective of Azure, Indigo’s childhood friend. These sections take place between the bridegroom’s chapters in discovering what exactly happened between the two girls.
The story of Azure and Indigo forms the basis for this narrative. It’s a dark tale of girlhood and obsession, especially on the part of Indigo with Azure. The two girls find their own place together in the Otherworld, an unearthly space of trees and flowers beyond the House of Dreams. Chokshi doesn’t fully explore the connection between the Otherworld and the supernatural, but the narrative isn’t diminished by the addition of more mystery.
As Azure attempts to form her own identity beyond Indigo’s control, psychological bonds begin to tear. These fractures in the relationship provide the conduit for physical destruction. Azure disappears, and the resulting cover-up seems to be why Indigo told her husband to not ever look into her past.
Chokshi’s writing style is lush and evocative of beloved fairy tales — mysterious, ambiguous, and totally elusive, which is what Indigo represents for the unnamed husband. Her writing does occasionally get bogged down in the stylistic swerves that the writing takes, which sometimes distracts the reader from what exactly is happening. That could be seen as a metaphor for Indigo, whose beauty shrouds the groom in secrecy, hoping that he strays from the path.
The House of Dreams, which is the setting for much of the plot, is a prominent character in The Last Tale of the Flower Bride. It’s also the primary component of the story’s heavily visual and cinematic qualities. The House’s many rooms and spaces throw red herrings of information at the bridegroom as he attempts to discover what exactly Indigo has hidden within the house. The House of Dreams inclines itself towards its very name, as the House is given dreamlike qualities that don’t quite fit in the real world.
There is this persistent idea of the border between the real world and the world of fairies and fairy tales. This idea is evident in why Azure is drawn to Indigo in the first place. Indigo, in all her seeming perfection, seems to represent this dream of escapism for Azure, who wants to escape from her difficult life. This theme is well-placed and well-addressed in regards to how Azure is characterized.
Azure later realizes that Indigo was not an escape for her, but someone she needed to escape from. The controlling elements of different worlds and one girl’s coming-of-age discovery are intertwined, which truly induces the mystic nature of Chokshi’s writing. Indigo is beautiful, and so is the way Chokshi grants the reader the ability to see what’s going on just before the bridegroom does. There doesn’t seem to be a point where the story loses focus, as it always appears to have the grand plan in mind.
It is admirable how Chokshi reconciles the bridegroom’s relationship with Indigo and Azure’s relationship with Indigo. The entire book is satisfying from start to finish, and is an original piece of work that shines, illuminating the reader’s perception of reality. The Last Tale of the Flower Bride seems like it should belong on the big screen, where it can truly flourish with the mesmerizing, mystic powers of moviemaking. With a cinematic adaptation, the story would really become magic, which is just what it deserves.