This is another ‘sneak preview’ of a book out later in 2017 – and I have to say, probably not one I would have picked up if it hadn’t been given to me in a pile of books to read. However, it was sat at the bottom of the pile waiting to be read – and it fitted into a few categories for my 2017 reading challenge – so I decided to give it a go.
The only quote on the front of the book, which is an uncorrected proof, is about ‘juicy, juicy aubergines’ – so I had a quick look on Amazon to see what they said about it:
“When Nikki takes a creative writing job at her local temple, with visions of emancipating the women of the community she left behind as a self-important teenager, she’s shocked to discover a group of barely literate women who have no interest in her ideals.
Yet to her surprise, the white dupatta of the widow hides more than just their modesty – these are women who have spent their lives in the shadows of fathers, brothers and husbands; being dutiful, raising children and going to temple, but whose inner lives are as rich and fruitful as their untold stories. But as they begin to open up to each other about womanhood, sexuality, and the dark secrets within the community, Nikki realises that the illicit nature of the class may place them all in danger.
East meets west and tradition clashes with modernity in a thought-provoking cross-cultural novel that might make you look again at the women in your life…”
I am lucky enough to have good friends whose heritage is Indian – much like the main character in this book – albeit Hindu rather than Sikh. I’ve also spent some time in Southall – where the book is set – as I used to work for a company with a factory there. So all in all, I felt a connection to the book right away.
Whilst the central theme of the book is the adult literacy class run by Nikki – there are other characters with their own backstories that thread through the book – with subjects such as arranged marriages and honour killings also touched upon. It was quite slow to start – busy setting the scene and introducing characters. Scattered throughout the book are, as the title would suggest, Erotic Stories for (and written by) Punjabi Widows. These are the results of the literacy class – and, whilst more Mills and Boon than Fifty Shades – are pretty explicit none the less! Those Punjabi widows can definitely write a salacious story or two (and reference many different vegetables it would seem!!)
The other threads of the story build to quite a climax (pun most definitely intended!) and I found the last quarter really exciting to read.
Overall I enjoyed this a lot more than I expected to – and thought it was well written, and really evoked the essence of what I expect an Indian community in London would be like. I found the characters very believable, and the whole book warm, funny and entertaining. I will definitely be seeking out this author’s back catalogue too.
Next time I have my sari redone by Indian Aunties in a hotel bathroom (true story!) I will be wondering what erotic stories they are busy writing!!