In the early hours of 28 May 2014 the bodies of two young girls were found hanging from the branches of a mango tree in the small village of Katra in India’s northern state of Uttar Pradesh. Their deaths caused outrage locally and attracted attention worldwide, as domestic and foreign media descended on Katra, the case gaining international notoriety less than two years after the gang rape of a young woman, Jyoti Singh, on a bus in Delhi in 2012.
The Good Girls is a tragic tale, both in terms of what it reveals about village life and also about what women in India can expect in a society hidebound by tradition. Having researched for four years — twice as long as she first anticipated — Sonia Faleiro has taken exceptional pains to recreate the events as they unfolded, interviewing as many of the key players as would come forward, their names helpfully listed in an ‘index of characters’.
Most surprisingly, perhaps, for western readers, a sub-theme of her narrative is the absence of toilet facilities, which means that before going to bed, the women have to go into the fields to relieve themselves. So when two young cousins, 16-year-old ‘Padma’ and 14-year-old ‘Lalli’ (not their real names) told their parents that they were going into the fields around 9 p.m, their departure did not arouse suspicion. But, as is later revealed, they went to meet a young boy, Pappu Yadav, with whom the elder girl, Padma, had already begun an intimate relationship, while Lalli assumed the role of look-out. When they were caught by another cousin, Nazru, who had been told to keep an eye on the girls, Pappu fled in one direction and the girls in another.