Scandalous lies. Sweet lies. Treacherous lies. Nimble lies. Lies of omission. Roopa Farooki’s Bitter Sweets tells the story of a Bangladeshi family built on a lie – and of three generations of suffering because of all the subsequent lies it takes to hold the unhappy group together.
Henna, a lazy and illiterate shopkeeper’s daughter from Dacca, convinces wealthy Anglophile and Oxford student Rashid (Ricky) Kareem that she is his poetry-loving, tennis-playing soulmate – a pretense that she manages to keep up until their wedding night. The first lie yields a second, as Ricky covers up his wife’s inadequacies for the sake of family honor. And the lies continue from there, each piece of happiness marred by some part of the truth missing.
Henna and Rashid’s only child, Shona, lies to keep peace. She falls in love with Parvez, a Pakastani, and they elope to London, where they start married life living over a confectioner’s shop. Intelligent and driven, Shona works tirelessly to create a perfect world for her little family. But even her kindly-meant lies take their toll, and eventually have repercussions for her twin sons, Omar and Sharif. (**Digression: Yes, that’s Omar and Sharif. Like the actor. It makes total sense when you read the novel, I promise.**)
Bitter Sweets is a solid family saga, romantic, funny, sad, and suspenseful in turns. I liked the complexity of the characters. Everyone has mixed motives, so their actions aren’t predictable. In fact, the ending provided a great plot twist that I never saw coming. I love that.
I thoroughly enjoyed this audiobook. Tania Rodrigues is a wonderful narrator, with a range of accents and voices that take the reader from Bangladeshi high society to the streets of London effortlessly. I had a couple of “driveway” moments while listening to the book, sitting in the car to listen to the end of a chapter – she has a great voice that you don’t tire of.
I’m starting to realize how very important the narrator is to the success of an audiobook. Actually, this book has me thinking about doing an experiment: I plan to read the actual book, and compare the two formats, to see how much of my enjoyment was because on the narration. Based on the mixed reviews I read of the book, and my own enthusiastic response, I wonder if Rodrigues’ masterful performance may have accounted for quite a lot my positive review.
Or maybe this is just my cup of tea. I will report back.
This book counts for THREE challenges: that’s a personal record. It counts for Evil in the What’s in a Name 4 Challenge, as well as for Immigrant Stories and the South Asia Challenge. Thanks to Beth Fish Reads, Colleen at BooksNYC and Swapna at S. Krishna’s Books for hosting.
Oh, and I’ll also be putting up a link on Audiobook Jukebox. It’s a great blog I recently found out about, with links to hundreds of reviews for audiobooks.