Book Review: Pride, Prejudice, And Other Flavors - Sonali Dev

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Title: Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors
Author: Sonali Dev
Publisher: HarperCollins (31 May 2019)
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Price: Rs. 499 on Amazon
Pages: 496

A year ago I saw this book doing the rounds on social media and while I normally do not pick up books by Indian authors just based on recommendation, I decided to give this a try as I planned on reading more Indian authors in 2020. This book has a bright, vibrant cover and the story kind of intrigued me. I'll tell you why. It claimed to be a gender swapped, modern day retelling of the classic, Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen. This put me in a tight spot because of a catch. Two actually. One, I hate retelling of stories. They take away the essence of the original and leave behind a lukewarm diluted tale. Second, I hate Jane Austen stories. I've read almost all her books with the hope of liking at least one. The closest I've come to liking one was 'Sense And Sensibility'. I find her stories to be long, desperate and misogynistic. Her stories also have the most annoying of female characters.

Obviously I did not think of all this when I bought the book last year. When I sat down to read it this month, I decided to read it with an open mind and be free of bias. Trust me, I did.

This is the story of the Rajes, a royal family from India who have migrated to California. Born to a royal father and a film-actress mother, Trisha Raje is our quintessential heroine here. Since she's rich and the story is gender swapped, she's the Darcy here. She's a top-shot neurosurgeon, but her family couldn't care less. All of her family's energy and resources are focused on getting her brother Yash, who is running for Governor of California, to win it. Trisha's elder sister, Nisha, is married to her childhood sweetheart and is frantically planning baby number two after a spate of miscarriages. Trisha also has another sibling, a younger brother, Vansh, who is barely spoken about.

The Liz to Trisha's Darcy here is DJ Caine, where DJ stands for Darcy James. I am not making this up. He's a chef who is catering to all the events hosted by the Rajes in favor of Yash becoming the Governor. DJ's sister Emma (Yes, Emma. Apparently their mother was a big Jane Austen fan and named her kids after her favorite characters), is an artist and is fighting a brain tumor that has conveniently wrapped itself around her optic nerves. While all other neurosurgeons in the country have deemed this tumor inoperable, Trisha Raje says she can remove it and save Emma's life, but with one condition. She cannot save the optic nerves and Emma will go blind after the surgery. So Emma, the artist whose life revolves around colors, must choose between staying alive and not going blind. The Caines aren't very financially stable and DJ is going out of his way to earn money to fund his sister's medical bills.

At one of Yash's fundraiser, DJ and Trisha get off on the wrong foot. He thinks that she's too privileged and arrogant and while she thinks that he's just the hired help and nothing beyond that. It is only after this incident that he realizes that she's the only one who can save his sister's life. It is only after this incident that Trisha realizes that he's the one who is helping her cousin Aashna's restaurant, Curried Dreams (Duh!), stay afloat. Just when you think that nothing can get more cliched than this, enter Julia Wickham. She wants to make a video on Emma and her plight, but has a vengeance towards the Rajes because of a back story. It was Trisha who brought Julia into the Raje family years ago and her family hasn't forgiven her for that yet. Now with Julia being back and following closely on the heels of Trisha's patients, what's her intention? Will this drive a rift between the already strained relationship between Trisha and DJ?

Honestly, this book is not as bad as I expected it to be halfway through the story. It is fun to a large extent, but has a lot of unnecessary characters and elements thrown in, a psychic cousin included! The book claims to be Bollywood style and you cannot disagree with it. I can almost imagine Sonam Kapoor as Trisha because she is the only one who can do justice to the dangerously annoying character that Trisha is. She's terribly proud of what she does and talks about it non-stop to others but her family. She even goes on to say "you have no idea how much these hands are worth" the first time she meets DJ. Her family doesn't give a damn about what she does, in fact I don't think her family even needs her. Life goes on beautifully for the Rajes, with or without her. DJ on the other hand, desperately needs the current job, to take care of Emma. As much as you want to empathize with him, the sibling dynamics are so weird that it doesn't evoke a single emotion. Also, the back stories of every character in the book is so terribly etched that you tend to wonder why all the miseries of the world are focused on the characters of this book alone!

While this is a decent attempt at a retelling, even if it is of a dud, the writing is what troubled me the most. When "busting your balls" is gender swapped to "busting your ovaries" to show how hard Trisha has worked to reach where she is, you know there is trouble. A totally unnecessary character then goes on to describe women as either a "diva or a devi". His logic is, one you take care of and the other takes care of you. One of the biggest problems that I have with Indian authors is the way they handle sex and sensual scenes. Lines like, he tasted her breath and her anticipation, she wrapped her legs around his hips her feet finding purchase on his arse - are outright cringe-worthy. The story needed a good edit as it is too long and terribly predictable.

Trisha's pride, the prejudice faced by Emma and DJ and the flavors of DJ's cooking (which only makes random appearances) are supposed to form the story, but too many additional ingredients and too much masala spoils its taste. Like they say, too many cooks...



Verdict: If you fancy Bollywood style books or are a fan of Sonam Kapoor, read this.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

I read this book as part of the #TBRChallenge2020 for prompt 1 - A book from a genre I generally avoid.

7 comments:

  1. Ouch!!! Suffice to say I am giving this one a miss though I love Jane Austen. Imagine the time she wrote in when women were portrayed so only. I wonder how and what she would have written about the 21st century women if she was present today? You must watch this movie- The Jane Austen book club - awesome chemistry of characters and its based on a love for Jane Austen. The book club will have you laughing and crying at the same time- very sweet movie set in present day scenario.

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    1. Oh I'll look the movie up, sounds like fun!

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  2. I haven't heard of this one before. Thank you for putting it on my radar!

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  3. Yet another well-written review, Soumya. I have decided not to pick this one even though I loved the cover of this book. I am wondering what it would be like to hear the sex scenes of this book, I don't think I will ever listen to it, but it would be totally laughable. I guess even listening to this book would be a bad idea. Anyway, I am waiting for your post on Audible. I am enjoying the experience.

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  4. I love your review Soumya, not so much the book. While I don't mind Bollywoodish books this one seems kind of contrived. Or it might have been that bit about it being a Sonam-kind of book. Not in my dreams can I imagine her as a neurosurgeon.
    I thought I wasn't one for re-tellings either, but I read a retelling of Pride and Prejudice too recently and found it okay. Incidentally Darcy was a neurosurgeon in that one too :-).

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