Small Betrayals by Shobhaa Dé Book Review

Post Category: Novels
Small Betrayals by Shobhaa De book review Indian Book Critics

Title: Small Betrayals 

Author: Shobhaa Dé 

Genre: Fiction 

Pages: 296 

Publisher: Penguin Books 

Publication Date: 1995 

ISBN: 0140246063



Small Betrayals, a novel by the esteemed Indian author Shobhaa Dé, stands out for its gripping narrative and poignant exploration of human relationships. Set in the vibrant city of Mumbai, this work of fiction offers a unique perspective on the complexities of family dynamics and the far-reaching consequences of betrayal. The novel’s diverse characters, each with their own compelling stories and struggles, add depth and intrigue to the narrative.

The narrative centres on three main characters: Shaina, her husband, Abhay, and her sister, Rani. Shaina is a successful career woman who has built a life for herself and her family. At the same time, her sister Rani is a struggling actress trying to make a name for herself in the competitive world of Bollywood. Their relationship is strained, and they find themselves constantly at odds.

Shaina’s husband, Abhay, is a successful businessman who seems to have everything. However, beneath the surface, he is struggling with his demons, including a hidden addiction that threatens to destroy his marriage and his life. As the story unfolds, we see the characters grapple with their betrayals and their impact on their relationships with one another.

One of the most intriguing aspects of Small Betrayals is how Dé explores the theme of betrayal. She delves into the various forms of betrayal, from the seemingly insignificant betrayals that occur in everyday life to the larger, more devastating ones that can shatter relationships and lives. Throughout the novel, the characters are forced to confront their betrayals and the consequences on their lives and those around them.

Small Betrayals explores the theme of betrayal and vividly portrays Mumbai and its vibrant culture. Dé’s skilful writing brings the city to life, with its bustling streets, crowded markets, and colourful characters. The city becomes a character in the novel, influencing the protagonists’ lives and adding depth to the narrative.

The characters in Small Betrayals are complex and well-developed, each with unique struggles and motivations. Shaina is a strong and determined woman who is determined to succeed in her career, even as she struggles to maintain her relationship with her husband and sister. Abhay, on the other hand, is a man torn between his desire for success and his hidden addiction, which threatens to destroy everything he has worked for. Rani, meanwhile, is a young woman trying to make her way in the world, even as she grapples with feelings of jealousy and resentment towards her more successful sister.


What makes it different? 

Small Betrayals by Shobhaa De distinguishes itself through its poignant exploration of the complexities of human relationships and the consequences of betrayal. The novel delves into the lives of its diverse characters, each grappling with their betrayals and their impact on their relationships. This narrative is set against the vibrant backdrop of Mumbai, which serves as a character in itself, providing a vivid and immersive setting for the story. De’s novel is particularly relevant in contemporary society as it offers a thought-provoking perspective on the human condition, delving into universally relatable themes such as the complexities of relationships, the consequences of betrayal, and the struggle to find one’s place in the world. 

The writing in Small Betrayals is engaging and evocative, with Dé masterfully capturing the emotions and experiences of her characters. The novel is a thought-provoking exploration of the human condition, delving into the complexities of relationships, the consequences of betrayal, and the struggle to find one’s place in the world.


Critical Insights: Hits Done, Misses Below

While Shobhaa De’s “Small Betrayals” offers a poignant exploration of human relationships and the consequences of betrayal, it is not without its drawbacks. One potential criticism is that the narrative can sometimes feel overly dramatic, with the characters’ struggles and betrayals sometimes verging on the melodramatic. This could potentially alienate readers who prefer more subtle and nuanced storytelling.

One could argue that ‘Small Betrayals ‘, despite being set in the bustling city of Mumbai, doesn’t fully exploit the potential of its backdrop. The town, with its vibrant energy and diverse culture, could have been a character in its own right, mirroring the characters’ struggles and experiences, thereby piquing the readers’ curiosity.

Finally, some readers might find the novel’s exploration of socialites and sex somewhat sensationalised, potentially detracting from the more severe themes of betrayal and relationships. This is a missed opportunity to delve deeper into the societal pressures and expectations that often lead to these betrayals.


Ideal Readers of this Novel: 

Shobhaa De’s novel Small Betrayals would be ideal for individuals interested in exploring the complexities of human relationships and the consequences of betrayal. This includes readers who appreciate a nuanced portrayal of the human condition as the novel delves into the intricate dynamics of relationships and the impact of personal betrayals on them.

The novel is particularly relevant for those who enjoy character-driven narratives and thought-provoking themes. Readers who are drawn to the exploration of the human psyche and the examination of social norms and expectations would find Small Betrayals engaging and insightful.

Additionally, fans of Shobhaa De’s writing style and previous works would be ideal readers for this novel. De is known for depicting socialites and sex in her works of fiction. Small Betrayals continues this trend by offering a realistic and intimate portrayal of urban life and women’s challenges in contemporary society.



Small Betrayals is a profoundly impactful and emotionally stirring novel that delves into the complexities of human relationships and the devastating consequences of betrayal. The book presents intricately developed characters, an immersive and vividly depicted setting, and thought-provoking themes that resonate with readers on a profound level. It is a compelling must-read for those drawn to exploring the intricate dynamics of human connections and the lasting impact of betrayal.


Review by Ashish for Indian Book Critics

Small Betrayals by Shobhaa Dé Book Review
  • IBC Critical Rating


It’s a classic Shobhaa Dé cliche… falling into the abyss of its trope.

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