Reviewed by Kate Appleton
After being exiled from her family in India for eleven years Shirin is plagued by memories of her past and the darkness that forced her and her husband to London. Meanwhile in Bangalore, Reena, the daughter of Shirin’s brother, discovers an old crumpled photo of her father, aunt and a mystery third girl. With thoughts of Nancy Drew in her head she embarks on a seemingly harmless detective hunt to find out who this woman is and instead unknowingly unravels a dark and disturbing family secret.
The structure of the novel is a dual narrative coming from the view points of both Shirin and Reena. This was a very effective style especially with the transitions between the past and present and the build up to the shocking revelations that are integral to the story. However, some aspects of Reena’s voice is a little irritating, but consistent with the style of being a detective, with a summary coming at the end of each of her chapters. Although, the two stories converge into one, I preferred reading Shirin’s story as her life was the main focus and it was her that as a reader you learn to care a lot about.
I found it extremely interesting to learn more about the Indian culture and the social demands especially in regards to what is expected of women. The theme of pride and status is very important to Shrina’s storyline and, for me, it was at times a shocking insight into different familial relationships. In addition, the details surrounding arranged marriages and the so-called CV, which is sent out to prospective suitors, were as surprising as they were illuminating in particular into the Christian culture in India. Another aspect of the book I loved was the dominant theme of food and the centrality of cooking within the family, to be honest it made me hungry just reading the story.
Although I did enjoy the book and was emotionally moved by the overall story I was slightly disappointed by the very swift and clean ending, especially after such an intricate weaving of past and present. I felt a little cheated. However, this story is obviously very close to Renita’s heart after growing up in Southern India and overall she has successfully created a really moving and poignant story.
Renita D'Silva's Website