Title: Bitter Sweets
Author: Roopa Farooki
Genre: Adult fiction
First US edition: November 2007
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Book Review by ChristineMM, "The Thinking Mother"
Summary: Light Beach Reading, Sadly, Not Much More Than That (I Blame The Editor)
At first I found the book a page-turner that I didn’t want to put down.
However, it didn’t take long to realize that not all the characters were portrayed with enough depth to make me really care what happened to them. The book speeds over time and across generations too quickly, which left me not very emotionally invested n the characters. Oddly by the end, I cared the most about a character who was not at all one of the books main characters! Yet in the end they didn’t tell whatever did happen to my favorite character (Omar). The loose ends were tied with some characters but not with all. This is just one more reason that the book is unbalanced.
Parts of the story were downright not believable, and some were just too coincidental. We readers want to believe what we are reading even though we know it is fiction, so we will usually tolerate a certain amount of predictability or coincidence but this book crossed that line.
On the good side it was interesting and different for me to read a book whose Muslim, Asian characters resided in Bangladesh and Pakistan and some who later immigrated to England and dealt with life as Asian immigrants in London.
Without giving away the entire plot, this book is about deceptions and lies and the tangled web they weave. The book has to do with leading double lives, infidelity, secret second marriages, and homosexuality. There is some dealing with preference for lighter skin tones, putting down those under one’s class or those who come from certain countries is a part of the story. The idea of a marriage either being for love or for money is an element here, as is the stigma within certain cultures of wanting to avoid divorce. The issue of putting on a good face to make it seem like everything is alright is another element, however the fact that some hate their unhappiness while others seem to just live with it is something that I as a reader didn’t understand at all.
Although the books characters are Muslim the religion itself is never really shown in the story, and we are left to think they are non-practicing Muslims. We also are not given enough information about the different cultures to explain why the characters choose to do or to not do certain things. I didn’t feel the book gave me as a non-Muslim American much insight as to the culture of Muslims. In fact so much of what goes on in the book seems to me to be against the Muslim religion! The book actually left me more confused than ever about the Muslim religion.
The general notion of “lying is not good for anyone” is the message which we didn’t need this book to tell us but we wouldn't mind a reminder if the story was fantastic or if I really loved the characters.
In the end I’d say this is a decent escape novel if you are looking for light entertainment and an easy read. If you are looking for a Toni Morrison type book, this is not it. I’m not sure why the publisher chose to release this in hardback as it seems to me this is more of a perfect beach read which would warrant a trade paperback format, with a lower purchase price.
It pains me a bit to give this book a 3 star review, but I feel it is a good and honest rating in my opinion. I do put part of the blame on the editor and publishing house for not working more with this first time book author to fix up the holes in the story and to make some of the shallow parts deeper, and to help make some of the not-believable parts more realistic and believable—that is what their job is, after all.
Disclosure: I received this book from the Amazon Vine program, having received an Advance Readers copy free of charge in exchange for an agreement to write a review on Amazon.com.
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