Friday, August 22, 2008

Book Review: Bitter Sweets by Roopa Farooki

Book Review:

Bitter Sweets

Description: With this spellbinding first novel about the destructive lies three immigrant generations of a Pakistani/Bangladeshi family tell each other, Roopa Farooki adds a fresh new voice to the company of Zadie Smith, Jhumpa Lahiri and Arudhati Roy. Henna Rub is a precocious teenager whose wheeler-dealer father never misses a business opportunity and whose sumptuous Calcutta marriage to wealthy romantic Ricky-Rashid Karim is achieved by an audacious network of lies. Ricky will learn the truth about his seductive bride, but the way is already paved for a future of double lives and deception--family traits that will filter naturally through the generations, forming an instinctive and unspoken tradition. Even as a child, their daughter Shona, herself conceived on a lie and born in a liar's house, finds telling fibs as easy as ABC. But years later, living above a sweatshop in South London's Tooting Bec, it is Shona who is forced to discover unspeakable truths about her loved ones and come to terms with what superficially holds her family together--and also keeps them apart--across geographical, emotional and cultural distance.

This book is already out in publication in Hardback. I received a copy of this book as part of the Early Reviewer group at Library Thing and from St. Martin's Griffin Publishers. My copy is an Advanced Readers' Edition Trade Paperback that will be published in October 2008. The book also includes a Reading Group Gold Section in the back of the book that includes:

  • An Interview with the author Roopa Farooki

  • Food For Thought

  • Reading Group Questions

Roopa Farooki's debut novel is a richly woven tale of three generations of a family with Indian, Pakistani and English backgrounds. The author was able to tell the story through the viewpoints of many characters in the book very smoothly. The main character that stood out for me in the story was Shona, the daughter of Henna and Ricky-Rashid who were brought together through an arranged marriage filled with deception. Shona, their only child, married Parvez a young man of Pakistani descent that her parents did not approve of as they were of Bangladeshi descent. They had twin boys who grew up to be very different in nature and personality. The main theme of the book is on the impact that lies and deception can have on a family. At one point, near the end of the story, Shona comes across a quote in a book that makes her question if deception is something she could change. She made a decision that would change the dynamics of her family. I liked Shona's character in the story and how her character along with other characters grew and matured. I disliked Henna, as she appeared to be a very selfish woman who rarely showed love or attention to her husband or daughter unless it was for her own personal gain. The author commented in an interview in the back of the book that explains much about the characters " Bitter Sweets the moral conflicts of the characters which lead them to deceive are not a result of religious dilemmas or culture clashes, but rather due to their very personal and ambiguous emotions." Forbidden love as well as faith and fidelity are other strong themes in the book. There were surprises and twists and turns all through the story. I enjoyed reading each creative chapter title as it was a glimpse ahead to the next storyline and it made me want to keep on reading. I was pleased with the ending of the book and where each character ended up in their stage of life. I can imagine a sequel to this book as it would be very interesting to see what happens to the characters next and how their choices may efffect the next generation.

I look forward to reading more books by this author and from information on the authors website and blog a new book will be out in the US next year in 2009.


  1. Great review Bonnie! This novel sounds amazing. I've not heard of it before but it's definitely going on the tbr pile.

  2. Sounds like a good book, Bonnie. Nice review.

  3. Bonnie! I loved your review, I want to read that book, I also wanted to tell you I got picked to be an Early Reviewer! I don't know if that' how I am supposed to say it, but anyway, I am soooo excited! Except I forgot the book I am getting.

  4. Thanks for the positive comments you guys!

    Nikki-Congrats on winning an Early Reviewer book! It's exciting to get books! I always am thrilled when I get picked also!

  5. wow really nice review. I am giong to get myself this book :)

  6. Bonnie, I headed over here after reading about your giveaway. I didn't realize you'd reviewed this book. I'm glad to see you liked it. I remember seeing it in BookPage and adding it to my TBR list but then removing it after it got very mixed reviews.

    I'd enter the giveaway, but I'm buried enough as is by my TBR stack!


Thanks for visiting and sharing a comment!