Culture Writers and Editors come together to recommend their favourite South Asian books for SAHM
The Shaadi Set-Up by Lillie Vale
The Shaadi Set-Up follows Rita Chitniss, who has a passion for furniture restoration, and had her heart broken by Milan Rao six years ago. Everything has now changed in the present as she is with her almost perfect boyfriend Neil. To prove that they are the perfect match, Rita signs up herself and Neil up to MyShaadi.com, a Desi matchmaking site which has proved its worthy success, to show that they are the latest new and improved couple. To Rita’s shock and horror, the site matches her with her ex Milan and now she has to face reality. Both of them are put to the test when Rita renovates Milan’s beach house of her dreams and as they both dive deeper into work and their infamous past, maybe the match on the site was not wrong after all.
This book has been on my tbr for the longest time and I am hoping to pick it up soon as it includes the following: exes to lovers, forced proximity and slow burn. It has everything you want in a cheesy rom-com.
The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri
The Jasmine Throne is the first instalment in an adult high-fantasy trilogy set in a world inspired by India. It follows the story of two women, one a princess who was imprisoned by her tyrannical brother and the other a maidservant with hidden magical powers. They become unlikely allies as they realise their common goal and set out to save the empire.
The world of The Jasmine Throne is lush and grand; Tasha Suri masterfully illustrates the beauty and dangers of the Hirana, the ancient temple in which the first half of the novel takes place. The tale focuses on women and their strive for power in a world which silences and burns women who step out of line. The main characters, Malini and Priya, are headstrong and know what they are after, despite the world telling them that they cannot achieve greatness. I would recommend this book to those who crave a lush and magical world as well as a diverse set of characters.
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
Aravind Adiga’s Booker-prize-winning novel, The White Tiger, lays India etherised on a table and brutally dissects her – the caste system, master–servant dynamics and political corruption – all with the masterful hand of a dark-humoured surgeon. The surgeon in question is Balram “The White Tiger” Halwei, a self-professed Indian entrepreneur, detailing his journey to the top.
The novel is framed as a letter from Balram Halwei to the Chinese Premier, a figure whom Balram refers to as “Sir” throughout, and who is easily substituted for the Western reader to whom every aspect of Indian culture must be explained. This explanation begins with Balram’s humble beginnings in Bihar, an area which Adiga calls the ‘Darkness’, through various traumatic life experiences. Despite the awful depictions of cruelty and inequality, the narrator’s dark humour stops the reader from breaking down in tears; instead, The White Tiger becomes a guiltily entertaining read.
The White Tiger comes highly recommended to readers who enjoy sardonic narrators with suspect morals or to those wishing to learn more about India. It was a truly eye-opening read and stayed with me well after I turned the last page.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
One of the best books I have ever read, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, is written in the unusual form of a book-long dramatic monologue and addressed throughout to ‘you,’ the unnamed American listener, but also to the reader. The protagonist Changez recounts his life: an education, job and wife in the USA, until, following 9/11 he becomes more and more uneasy about American policy in South Asia and behaviour towards himself and other Muslims, and hence returns to Pakistan. Changez performs the role of native guide in many ways to both his American guest and the reader, advising on and explaining different aspects of Pakistani culture, including the food and drink at the café in which the entire exchange takes place, and the customs, practices and people that they observe on the streets throughout the evening.
Moshin Hamid achieves an incredibly unique narrative voice in Changez, using this to beautifully portray Pakistan’s capital Lahore through a conflicted native lens, and explore themes of nationality, hybridity and belonging. But more unsettling to the implied Western audience, he pre-empts and predicts the reader’s own biases, gradually revealing their prejudices in an attempt to dismantle them. The Reluctant Fundamentalist is an incredibly important novel for its stunning portrait of a country and an individual caught in conflict, and for what it exposes within the reader themselves.
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