I always enjoy reading Indian novels and if you’ve never tried an Indian novel, I urge you to experiment. Like all other genres they range from the comic (see below) to the serious, for example Rohan Mistry’s work, and a whole lot in between.
Thrity Umrigar is an interesting female novelist – interesting because she’s an Indian novelist who lives and works in the USA and in the two novels I’ve read, both explored the collision of cultures as applied to womens’ stories, modern Indian v.s. modern American life. It’s East meets West, and occasionally the twain do meet, but often with much conflict en route.
In The Story Hour she focuses on Lakshmi’s story. Lakshmi, is a deeply unhappy wife imported from India to a marriage in the USA; she’s so depressed she tries to commit suicide and is saved, in hospital, by a female psychologist, Maggie. The story is a brilliant exploration of cultures, womens’ relationships, the cultural barriers between East and West. We view two marriages – secrets are revealed. There is despair, forgiveness, hope and a blossoming new, fulfilling life. I very much liked the ending which was not a formulaic “and they all lived happily ever after” finale. Life seldom ties a neat ribbon bow around endings, and the novel authentically presents possibilities and options, but we don’t know which she will choose. Very authentic. A recommended read.
The other Indian novel was by one of my favourite comic authors, Tarquin Hall. Yet another mystery in the Vish Puri series, titled The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken. The book is like a Bollywood movie – OTT (over the top) –with multiple, confusing plot lines, amongst them match fixing in cricket, diamond smuggling, a record-breaking moustache is stolen (off the wearer’s face, nogal) ; the Indian Partition of 1947, a revenge killing and through it all there is indomitable Vish Puri : detective of note, he’s overweight, lover of good food, but currently a reluctant dieter. Vish Puri is trying to solve all these mysteries simultaneously, with varying degrees of success. And then there’s his Mummy-ji*, respectable old lady, who interferes mercilessly in the process. There’s a marvellous portrayal of a breakneck car chase, which is breathtaking to read.
The book is a terrific substitute for a ticket to India – its colourful, spicy, chaotic and garlanded with the solemn hilarity of Hinglish ** and as a bonus point there’s even a Hindi wordlist at the end of the book. I can’t wait for the next Vish Puri mystery!
*-ji is an honorific, attached to names.
**Hinglish – lovely mixture of Hindi and English