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Chauhan, Anuja. Those Pricey Thakur Girls. New Delhi: Harper Collins, 2013.

I read this as part of the Anuja Chauhan Reading Club organized by [personal profile] deepad. Short version: I really enjoyed it and you should totally read Chauhan's books if you can.

The plot follows the trials and tribulations of the Thakur family in the 1980s in India, when deregulation is the name of the game and fourth daughter Debjani (the Judge and his wife named their daughters in alphabetical order; daughters A through C have married and left the house, leaving Debjani and high school age Eshwari) lands a prize gig as a newsreader on the state television channel. Almost immediately she clashes with up-and-coming investigative journalist Dylan Shekhawat, who is attempting to pressure the government into taking action against the senior politicians who were indirectly responsible for the anti-Sikh riots several years previous. Although on the surface of it, this sounds like an odd mixture of tone, Chauhan managed to pull off the romance against the serious background material, and implicate them together in the ending, rather well, I thought.

It helps that the Thakurs are pretty hilarious, and that Chauhan has an eye for the telling and comedic detail. Like other people, I felt like Debjani herself was a bit underserved by the narrative, but I was happy to trade clearer character development for her for the focus on the wider family adventures, which as I said, were hilarious. In this the third person POV was quite an advantage, as it allows us to float through various characters' perspectives for maximum payoff.

I've not read much Indian literature (Salman Rushdie; Amitav Ghosh) and I'm not a big fan of romance, so I suspect that this was actually the ideal Chauhan book for me in that the third person POV means that the entire book isn't totally romance-centered. The downside is that, as several other people have remarked, some parts of the narrative feel somewhat awkwardly shoehorned in, particularly the parts about youngest daughter Eshwari's budding school romances. (Given that a sequel, set a generation after this book, is forthcoming, one suspects at least some of this material is setup for that novel.) I liked that Dylan and Debjani were often (but not always!) fairly mature and rational about their relationship, and that there was a balance between them and their families in how things progressed.

All in all, this was a fun book--I stayed up late reading it in about two sessions. Although there's a lot of Hinglish slang, I generally found it pretty easy to piece together what was going on from context, particularly since Chauhan was pretty good about bringing the feel of the setting alive without info-dumping. I would happily read more of her books, and in particular the new one about the Thakurs in the future--I hope I'll get the chance!


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