Binodini is a convent educated young widow left to her own devices when her husband dies soon after they are married. As was the custom in those times in British India, she returns to her village and lives there for a couple of months until she accepts the invitation of Rajlakshmi to live with her and her son Mahendra (who had rejected a former marriage proposal with Binodini) in Calcutta. He is newly married to Ashalata (a naïve, gentle girl), but soon begins to feel a strong attraction for Binodini.
The story details the relationships of these three and Mahendra's best friend Bihari as they deal with issues like distrust, adultery, lies and problems between them.
Tagore elaborately records early 20th-century Bengali society through his central character, the rebellious widow who wants to live a life of her own. In writing this novel he exposes the custom of perpetual mourning on the part of widows, who were not allowed to remarry and were condemned to a life of seclusion and loneliness. It is a melancholic, stirring tale of the deceit and sorrow that arise from dissatisfaction and sorrow. Tagore has said about the novel, "I have always regretted the ending".
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