JEAN GOODER, FELLOW EMERITA, NEWNHAM COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE
The Cambridge Curry Club is funny, humanly perceptive and irresistibly rooted in the local scene.
Read this and you won’t stop smiling.
A real feast of comedy and characters in a wonderful riotous, colourful mix.
I absolutely adored The Cambridge Curry Club — really, thought it was completely brilliant.
WATERSTONES CUSTOMER REVIEW
This was a laugh out loud book for me. Not a cook book at all, but one set in a charity shop in Cambridge and the characters are wonderful. I can’t remember the last time a book made me chuckle so much. A perfect read for anyone who works in or frequents charity shops, as you are sure to recognise at least one or two storylines.
Balsari’s characters are intricately portrayed by their speech and their actions which makes them natural and instantly believable. Being a bit of a word snob, it is not often that I read a book and actually hope to see it on the screen but Balsari’s talent for strong characterisation, fast pace and comic timing mean that I could easily picture The Cambridge Curry Club as a short film or if expanded, a sit-com. It came as no surprise then to learn that The Cambridge Curry Club started life as a play. The Mill Road is one of the places in Cambridge in which I feel quite at home and Balsari sums up its unique spirit persuasively. The blurb refers to The Cambridge Curry Club as ‘an ironic postcolonial romp’ and certainly it would be difficult to mention the novel without making at least a passing reference to race and immigration. Balsari explores complex issues such as traditionalism, multiculturalism, alienation and integration without being didactic or over simplistic.
GEETHA RAMANATHAN, UNIVERSITY OF WEST CHESTER, USA
I loved the way you let the characters describe themselves and didn’t intrude in them at all. I thought the book was really serious in many ways and poignant. You’re a great writer of dialogue, and you’ve done a marvellous job of creating a whole world.
JOEL KUORTTI, UNIVERSITY OF JOENSUU, FINLAND
An intriguing view on the challenges to the construction of a new Europe with multiple ethnicities, identities, and strategies of survival.
I thoroughly enjoyed it and found it funny at times, moving at times. If it is taken up by anyone, I would definitely like to play Heera. She was the best character in the book (and had the best lines!).
THE YOU READING GROUP, MESSAGE BOARD
This was not quite what I expected but I enjoyed it anyway. I felt it was written for an Indian audience in the same way that Bollywood films are made for their own culture. I read it in hospital and didn’t concentrate on it fully, so will read it again someday.
She has captured well the dry English witticisms often laced with sarcasm, giving an added edge to an otherwise polite remark or statement.
The characters in the book seemed too real and familiar, almost eerily so. It was almost as if you’ve been eavesdropping on some of our conversations, so even though the neighbourhood is Cambridge, you’ve been able to connect with the “Indian-ness” that exists and is so familiar to any Indian living anywhere in the world. There were a couple of places where your writing got really intense. I loved the Neruda interpretation as well as the line where you wrote about the excitement and anticipation of the budding of a new relationship. I kept reading it a couple of times and it weighed on my mind for some time. I loved the easy cheeky humour.
I have just finished reading “The Cambridge Curry Club” and really enjoyed it. I had been keen to read it ever since you spoke to us at that Cambridge Writers’ meeting ages ago but hadn’t been able to get hold of a copy. When I started reading the novel I wasn’t sure about the multiple viewpoints idea – my own novel is written in the first person, which obviously limits the scope of narration, and most of the novels I read are written from the points of view of only a handful of characters. But your novel really worked well – there are the four main viewpoints of the women in the shop, but also their husbands / partners / lovers / families, etc as “secondary” characters, and they are all distinct and different. I also liked the idea of the main bulk of the story being set on one day in the shop, with the characters looking back over their lives. Well done!
I thoroughly enjoyed The Cambridge Curry Club. I loved the humour – it’s the subtle humour I enjoy. I read mainly while commuting to and from work and had a grin on my face so often and it gave me a great pleasure to watch the “Hey don’t leave me out of this joke look”!! There is lots I could identify with. The language especially, and of course, so much of Mumbai … the relationships are well etched out too.
It says on the back cover ‘If you like a read with chuckles, this is it.’ I have to agree. The IndiaNeed charity shop in Cambridge is a marvellous setting. The interweaving of the lives of four women, three of Indian origin and one Irishwoman, together with the formidable Diana Wellington-Smythe (Director on the Board of the Charity), allows a feast of gentle comedy to ensue. If you found The Number 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency a welcome respite from weightier tomes this is a must-read.
MSN READERS’ GROUP
I love libraries. Where I grew up there was a tiny public library which I would go very frequently with my mum, who also loved reading. It didn’t take me long to work through the children’s department, though some books became firm friends, renewed endlessly. I still occasionally come across the same editions of those books, and hurriedly adopt them. When I got into the adult room, there was no stopping me. I rapidly became worldly wise through the medium of unsuitable reading matter – just a raised eyebrow or two from the librarian.
One of the great benefits of libraries is the opportunity to try books you may not otherwise buy. One of these treasures is The Cambridge Curry Club by Saumya Balsari. The novel is set in contemporary Cambridge; more specifically a charity shop on Mill Road. As I used to work along there, and have subsequently visited the area, I thought that this novel caught very well the bustling atmosphere of the Road. It is also partly an book about India, and the charity which the shop seeks to help. On the front of this copy it likens the novel to the Ladies Detective Agency genre, but it is certainly not as cosy or neatly plotted as those books. This is a better, more challenging read. Each woman who works in the shop has her own story, either how she arrived as a volunteer or how her life outside the shop continues.
This book is a funny, yet realistic account of lives in Cambridge. A woman who has been pressured into marriage in India, and whose husband is completely under his family’s influence, even from thousands of miles away. A woman who has unusual parties and discovers her husband has a secret life. A badly behaved parrot, a man writing letters and measuring junk mail by the inch, the incredible items that are donated, all combine to give a broad, if sometimes confusing picture of events in the progress of the shop. Bemused customers seek bargains alongside delivery people who get sidetracked and those upset that it is solely an Indian charity. The book culminates in a farcical (in a good way) account of detective work by the shop workers, a concealed corpse, a lost prayer book and destruction. Each character is given a proper concluding section, but in such a way as to reflect the untidiness of real life, rather than neat solutions. There are some references to contemporary Indian culture that passed me by, even as a veteran reader of A Suitable Boy and other books, but a little confusion seems a small price to pay to enjoy this novel. Definitely worth seeking out in your library or bookshop as a book that is difficult to define but fascinating in its complexity.