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Review: Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows, by Balli Kaur Jaswal

A book that I ended up liking way more than I actually thought I would! I realise that sounds weird, seeing as I purchase books for myself and would presumably know my own interests and likes and dislikes, but anyway - this ended up being a very enjoyable read.

It's the story of Nikki, who takes a job teaching what she thinks is adult literacy at a Southall community centre for a community of Punjabi expats, and is a bit about everything else - it's a coming-of-age story, it's a story about making your own identity when you feel torn between two worlds, dealing with grief and loss, etc. There's also a bit of mystery and romance thrown in, so there's truly something for everyone here.

Just to get this out of the way, these are the two things about this book that I didn't absolutely love: the dialogue basically felt like it was used to show the characters' personality traits, rather than a function of moving the plot along or getting the characters to grow and develop. A lot of it was basically just arguments between two people who were not willing at all to consider the other person's point of view or arguments, or two people who were not willing to consider that they might not be absolutely in the right at any time. By the three-hundredth page, that kind of circular reasoning that never went anywhere did start to get annoying. The second bit that annoyed me was the way the mystery wasn't adequately bedded into the plot - it was thrown in when Kaur Jaswal felt the need to up the stakes of the narrative, or add a bit of menace into the mix, which meant that the resolution fo the mystery and the dramatic climax of the novel did feel a bit cheaply bought and a bit come-out-of-nowhere.

Right. Those are the things I didn't love. The things I did very much enjoy, however, are:

  1. The character growth and development shown by all the POV characters (mainly, Nikki and Kulwinder);

  2. The way all the characters, even the secondary and tertiary ones, are fully-developed and feel quite three-dimensional and real;

  3. The funny asides and streams of consciousness;

  4. The story as a whole;

  5. The themes sprinkled throughout the book, and the thoughtful and nuanced way the author approaches difficult topics.

All in all, I highly recommend this book as an enjoyable afternoon read - you come away with a meaningful yet not heavy reading experience, and I'm remembering my experience with these characters and the story fondly. This book is a debut novel, and I'm very much hoping Kaur Jaswal puts out more books so I can keep charting her progress as a writer.

Happy reading,

Amélie xx

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I’m Amélie, I love books and reading, and I also love talking about them.

I’m incredibly lucky to be bilingual, so I read books in both French and English, and will talk about both of those on here – although I will do more in English, since I know that’s probably what the majority of the people who ever find this blog will be interested in!

I also like history, traveling, Shakespeare, coffee, cheese, musicals, Italian Baroque art, the ballet, Mock the Week and Have I Got News For You, flowers, makeup, high heels, and baking. Yes, I’m a walking cliché. I am aware.

Please do tweet at me with any suggestions/book recommendations/thoughts.

In case you’re curious – yes, Pride and Prejudice is my favorite book of all time.

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