A woman’s world

Bangkok Post - - BOOKS & MOVIES -

The pay­off of my hav­ing spent years as a back­packer and vis­it­ing over 50 coun­tries is that I remember them all, some more vividly than oth­ers. That gives me an ad­van­tage when re­view­ing the books and movies set in one or more of them, over those who re­mained at home. Yes, I know that area. No, it’s just a set or a bit of poetic li­cense.

Not that there’s any­thing wrong with imag­i­na­tion. It’s ex­pected of au­thors and scriptwrit­ers. For me, the US: check. The UK: check. Con­ti­nen­tal Europe: check. In­dia: check. Hong Kong: check, etc. Sites. Peo­ples. Ex­pe­ri­ences. Teach­ing English jour­nal­ism. A fam­ily.

Read­ing The Cap­puc­cino Chron­i­cles by Pash­mina P., my first re­ac­tion was been there, done that. My sec­ond re­ac­tion was been there, didn’t do that. It’s a story about women by a woman. Sit­ting in their favourite Le­banese cof­fee shop in Lon­don, the sib­lings and best friends find that hap­pi­ness, fame and for­tune are to be found abroad.

In­dian back­grounds are their great­est ob­sta­cle. Two sis­ters in San Fran­cisco sti­fled by the tra­di­tional ways of their tyran­ni­cal wife-beat­ing fa­ther. Amer­i­can and In­dian cul­ture are in­com­pat­i­ble. The fam­ily splits up.

Another lass hooks an oil prince. Apart from sex, he tunes her out. Throw­ing money at her, he couldn’t care less about what she thinks. She takes up the pen, eats ex­otic foods un­til she be­comes obese. The women do a lot of gig­gling, sob­bing, giv­ing one another ad­vice on the in­ter­net. Noth­ing spir­i­tual or pro­found.

One be­comes a suc­cess­ful fash­ion de­signer in Hong Kong. Years pass. She wants to leave. Her boyfriend doesn’t. Mum calls. How about In­dia? The males are two-di­men­sional. An in­valid (a wimp). A Caribbean mu­si­cian is the only pleas­ant guy in the book, but mar­ry­ing a black man isn’t done.

One of the women dies of can­cer. With her eu­logy and a wed­ding, the plot winds down. The In­dian nov­els I’ve read to date have been much too long. At un­der 300 pages, this book says all it has to say with­out pad­ding. She lacks the fi­nesse of a first-class writer like Danielle Steel, who has cor­nered the mar­ket in girls grow­ing up, yet she keeps you turn­ing the page. She would do well to give men some credit.

The Cap­puc­cino Chron­i­cles By Pash­mina P Has­mark 249pp Avail­able at Asia Books and lead­ing book­shops

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