Monday, January 11, 2010
I followed up a book about Pakistan with one about India—more specifically, a multigenerational story about an Indian family in both India and in Britain. It’s one of those sprawling family sagas that are often labeled “women’s fiction” but with a South Asian flavor. I really enjoyed it. Farooki’s writing isn’t the most polished but she makes up for it in humor and realism.
Bitter Sweets follows a mother, Henna, and her daughter Shona, and their husbands, siblings, friends, lovers, and children. Henna’s story begins with a lie perpetrated by her father, who arranges Henna’s marriage to the son of a wealthy Calcutta family by passing Henna off as an educated, English-speaking 19-year-old when really she is an illiterate 15-year-old with nothing but good looks and moxie to recommend her. Lies lead to more lies and it all gets a little soap opera-ish, but in a good way. Shona, living in London many years later with her Pakistani husband and twin sons finally manages to end the cycle of lies, but the gods have other plans, and a surprise ending stirs everything up again. This book would make a good fun movie. It’s got love, betrayal, affairs, secret identities, humor, good food, and beautiful women in saris.
I see from Amazon.co.uk that Roopa Farooki has published several books in the U.K. that have not been released in the U.S. It does look like the U.S. Amazon site has a few of them, though my library only seems to have one other title besides this one. I am looking forward to reading more of Farooki's books; they take some of my favorite elements of domestic fiction (relationships, food) and move them to a more exotic setting.
(Book 46, 2009)