Just Read

The Mango Season by Amulya Malladi

Genre: Fiction, contemporary fiction, Indian author

This book came to me by chance. I would say it found me, as if it knew that this was the exact time when I should read it. 🙂 I was browsing through some book blogs and came across a good review for this book and, considering that I am in the mood for foodie books these days, I picked up a copy immediately. I have to say that this is my first book by this author – I have never read anything by Amulya Malladi before.

Priya, a young girl from a conservative Telugu Brahmin family, goes to America, just because she wants to escape her routine life at home. In the US of A, she finds a home, friends, work and makes a life for herself. In the process, she also gets involved with an American boyfriend, Nick, with whom she has been living together for the past two years. Now, after seven long years, it is time to return to India, and Priya is faced with more than one dilemma. How much would India have changed in these seven years that she has been away from home? How on earth would she tell her family about Nick? How would she ever end up escaping the trap of arranged marriage that her parents were sure to set up for her? All this and more makes up the story of The Mango Season.

I must say the author has a lovely, simple, fresh style of writing that makes the book a fast read. I loved how the author has etched the characters of Priya and each one of her family members, evocatively, so that you can imagine everyone in your mind. I loved how the book is well written, in spite of the very Hyderabadi phrases used in it, several times over – at no point of time does the book begin to feel colloquial or boring or not understandable. In fact, these phrases just add to the overall feel of the story.

I especially liked how the author has depicted Priya’s internal struggles – she has done a wonderful job with showing the turmoil of a woman who has almost left behind the shackles of society, but not quite. I loved the parts where the protagonist tackles the overwhelming sights and sounds and experiences of India with a bittersweet feeling, after so many years of having been away. I loved how the author has shown the protagonist maturing, in the short span of her vacation to India, her coming-of-age of sorts. The book also depicts how India, as a whole, is changing, too, and I liked that. Last but not the least, I loved the backdrop of the mango pickling season that the book is set against.

This book could easily have been a limp, dull piece of prose, with yet another heroine who is afraid to tell her family about her life away from home. I can’t be more thankful that the author for not turning Priya into that kind of woman.

The Mango Season did feel quite dramatic at times, like something straight out of a Hindi movie, but that can be quite easily forgiven as compared to the, overall, good experience that I had with the book. And, yes, I know conservative Indian families do have that tendency of becoming overly dramatic, at times, if not always.

So, this is definitely a book that I would recommend. I am going to look out for more books by this author, for sure.

My rating: 4 out of 5

Come Into My Kitchen by Ranveer Brar

Genre: Non-fiction, cookbook, foodie memoir, Indian author, food, memoir

I had been quite keen on picking up this book, ever since I attended an event by Chef Ranveer Brar. It promised a peek into his growing-up years, as well as some very interesting fusion recipes. Sadly, though, the book turned out to be a disappointment.

The ‘memoir’ part of the book is very brief, just an outline of Ranveer’s life in general and how he grew in his career. There could have been a lot more depth and colour to it, but this section just read bland. The language used in the book is very colloquial, the kind of ‘Boss‘ and ‘Arre‘ talk that you would use with a friend, not what you would expect from a book of this magnitude, sadly. The book could have done with tighter proofreading and editing as well. Also, the memoir section of the book would have been better off with colour pictures from the author’s life, depicting the major events from his life, but the few black-and-white pictures that have actually been used just don’t cut it.

As for the ‘cookbook’ part of it, the recipes were interesting, yes, but the formatting wasn’t great. Some of the headings and subheadings seemed to be mixed up, with recipes including chicken and egg indicating ‘vegetarian’ protein content. The food photography is good, but the photographs are clumped together in one part of the book, while the recipes are elsewhere. It would have been nice to have the a particular food picture along with the recipe for the same, especially in case of new-to-India stuff like cannoli. The descriptions of each of the recipes included here could have been much, much better, too.

I might try out some of the recipes from the book, but the memoir part of it is just forgettable. To be honest, the memoir part has a whole lot of potential; I feel it wasn’t explored at all.

Overall, this isn’t a book I would recommend. 2.5 out of 5, I would say.

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