Book of the Decade 2010


By Paul Kirkley, Cambridge News and Cambridgeshire Journal

A novel inspired by its author’s days volunteering in a Cambridge charity shop has been voted the county’s best book of the past 10 years.

Launched last January and backed by the News, the Cambridgeshire Book of the Decade accolade aimed to find the best book published between January 2000 and December 2009 which was either written by someone living in Cambridgeshire, or set within the county.

A panel of judges selected a shortlist of six titles, which was then put to the public vote.

And, at a ceremony at Cambridge Central Library, the coveted title was awarded to Saumya Balsari for her debut novel, The Cambridge Curry Club.

The book, first published in 2004 and reissued four years later, centres on the chaotic lives of the female staff of a Mill Road charity shop — just like the one Bombay-born Saumya volunteered in after moving to Cambridge in the mid 1990s.

The author beat off competition from such literary heavyweights as Kate Atkinson’s Case Histories and Alexander Masters’ Stuart: A Life Backwards.

Saumya Balsari on winning the award

I’m completely overwhelmed. For me it was an honour just to be on the shortlist — I didn’t think for a moment I would win it. I’m just so pleased to know this award has been voted for by the public, and that so many readers really loved the book.

I think one reason people like it is because Mill Road is a very unique part of Cambridge — it’s such a contrast in every way with the college spires and chapels, and I don’t think it’s written about in that sort of detail very often.

But I actually feel slightly apologetic about winning.

I don’t think it’s a question of beating the competition — I genuinely believe that all the books on the shortlist deserve the recognition.