Monday, December 1, 2008

Bitter Sweets--Roopa Farooki (book review)

Lies and betrayal. Even the breeziest reader won't miss the themes of Bitter Sweets. Every character but two (aptly named Verity Trueman and Candide) lives a lie--to the point that by the latter half of the book it's almost comical to see what twist will require the next couple to hide their relationship. And, in case the reader hasn't caught on, the author provides passages like,

"Golden Shona had been conceived with a lie and was born in a liar's house, and into an inevitable understand that it was always better to comfort or conceal with a lie than to hurt or expose with the truth."
I'm not a fan of lies as a literary device--I'm always internally yelling at characters to come clean already, so we can get on with the story. So it's a testament to the author that I enjoyed the book despite that. The dual settings of Pakistan and London were well-drawn, and some of the characters were appealing enough that I was willing to stick with them even as they annoyed me with their dishonesty.

I've seen this described as Chick Lit with an Indian twist, but I thought the book really took off when Farooki shifted her focus to Shona's sons. The voice became fresher, and the characters, more engaging.
He (Shona's son Sharif) started the band for four reasons, in this order:
  1. It would be cool to be the lead singer in a band.
  2. Girls liked people in bands, especially the lead singers.
  3. Being in a band would irritate his dad.
  4. Oh, and he truly believed that Music was to be his Great, All-Fulfilling Destiny.
Soundtrack: Farooki did me the favor of including Parvez Kahn's playlist on her website. Unfortunately, Parvez (father of Sharif of the above quote) has terrible taste in music. Fortunately, The Beat (aka The English Beat) did a great ska cover of the Smokey Robinson song that Parvez says, "I always felt that this song was about me." You can hear The Beat's Tears of a Clown by clicking on the playlist in my sidebar.

Roopa Farooki's next book, Corner Shop, will be out in early 2009 in the U.S. I believe the U.K. edition was released earlier this year.


  1. I really enjoyed this book when I read an ARC of it last year. Very good characters, and I'm very excited that she has a new book coming out.

  2. Ooh, good song. The Beat's version, I mean. Now I need to listen to my 2 Tone collection.