I received this book for free from Publisher for review consideration, opinions expressed are 100% my own. This post contains affiliate links as indicated by an asterisk. Purchases from these links provides a small commission to me at no extra cost to you.Monsoon Memories by Renita D'Silva
Published by Bookouture on June 21, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Drama, Fiction, World or cultural
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Synopsis from Goodreads:
“English rain smelt and tasted of nothing at all. It had none of the fury, the passion of the monsoons. Instead, it was weak; half-hearted.”
Exiled from her family in India for more than a decade, Shirin and her husband lead a comfortable but empty life in London.
Memories of her childhood – exotic fragrances, colours, stifling heat and tropical storms – fill Shirin with a familiar and growing ache for the land and the people that she loves.
With the recollections though, come dark clouds of scandal and secrets. Secrets that forced her to flee her old life and keep her from ever returning.
Thousands of miles away, in Bangalore, the daughter of Shirin’s brother discovers a lost, forgotten photograph. One that has escaped the flames.
Determined to solve the mystery of an aunt she never knew, Reena’s efforts will set in place a chain of events that expose the painful trauma of the past and irrevocably change the path of the future.
An unforgettable journey through a mesmerizing, passionate land of contrasts – and a family whose story will touch your heart.
Story and Characters
A wonderfully dramatic and poignant debut novel from Renita D’Silva. I was captivated by the characters and their plight. I was intrigued by what deep secret could have torn the family apart. What caused Shirin so much grief that she was haunted by the Eyes that would follow her during her daydreams and nightmares? My heart broke for Shirin, she exiled herself to the UK but longed for her family in India but wondered if they could ever forgive her. I could empathize with young Reena, an only child in India, who stumbled on a photograph of this forgotten woman and was determined to find out more about her. I simply could not put this book down and although I figured out the secret about half way through, I had to know what would happen and if the family could resolve their issues.
I enjoyed how the author switched from Shirin’s to Reena’s perspective as they both inched their way closer to the truth. I was so enthralled with the book that it did not feel like a 400 page book (which I only realized when writing the review). I look forward to future novels by this promising author.
Ahhh, India, the country of my ancestry with vibrant colors, sweet tropical fruits and fragrant, melt in your mouth curries. I have only been once that I can remember, but the country, its sights, delicious food and loving, welcoming family has stayed with me. I have family from Bangalore, where Reena’s story in India takes place.
Ms. D’Silva brought back delicious childhood memories of food my mom makes. I was drooling over just the mere thought of the wonderful aromas that Indian cooking produces. As diverse as India is with different regions speaking different languages and eating different foods, I was surprised to find some of our family’s favorites described, idli with sambar (fat little white pancakes with lentil curry), masala dosa (Indian crepes stuffed with pan fried potato), bhel puri (crispy rice with a mint and sweet tamarind chutney, boiled potatoes, cilantro and tomatoes), and gulab jahmun (crispy, sugary doughnut holes floating in a sweet syrup). I have not learned to make these Indian favorites yet, looks like I will be hunting for some recipes and hounding my mom for hers. See my Asian Indian Recipes to Try Pinterest Board for mouth-watering recipes of these family favorites, pictured below.
Ms. D’Silva brought to light the struggle characters face upholding their culture’s strong values or going with their heart. She demonstrated the emotional impact of characters who are torn between following through with an arranged marriage or falling in love with someone of their choosing (even if he was of a different religion or station in life). The story shows the political unrest between Catholic, Hindu and Muslim Indians and the social disparity between the poorest servants who, when lucky, become part of the well-to-do family for whom they care. Ms. D’Silva transported me back to India and I was sad to leave India, Shirin, Reena and their families when the book was over.
“I want them to get good jobs and live in a big house like you, Reena, when they grow up. If they are educated, not illiterate like me, they can do anything, go anywhere, be anyone….” (location 422-423)
“Hope. One small word that fooled you into believing you could make dreams that you had no business wanting come true, that one day your home would reverberate with laughter, noise and children’s harmless mischief, that somehow you would not be punished for your mistakes, that you would escape unscathed…” (location 1361-1363)
Reading Challenges Met
Around the World in 80 Books – India
Have you read any fiction or non-fiction set in India? Have you ever been there? What books have you read that made you want to visit another country? What books have you read that you were sad when you were done reading it? I’d love to hear from you, please share your thoughts with me!