Ravinder Randhawa

All posts tagged Ravinder Randhawa

The Coral Strand – Ravinder Randhawa

Published March 1, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

From English winters to Indian summers. From the cold streets of modern Britain to the glamorous, turbulent and impassioned world of 1940’s Mumbai.

Each year, Sita makes a mysterious journey to the Mausoleum, the place of dark memories and warped beginnings. She goes to spy on Emily and Champa, the strange ‘guardians’ she once escaped, and on whom she had taken a daring revenge. This year proves to be fatefully different… This year, the terrible secrets of the past are starting to emerge; secrets that inexorably link the three women to each other, to the grey-eyed stranger Kala, and to an altogether different world – the glittering, violent and passionate world of 1940’s Mumbai.

Ravinder Randhawa’s women, caught in a desperate fight for survival, cross taboos and forbidden lines in this richly plotted novel, imbued with fascinating historical detail, and the beauties of place and period. Readers of modern and historical novels alike will enjoy Randhawa’s evocative portrait of the compelling relationship between Britain and India, which continues to enthrall and engage us.

What did I think?:

I first came upon Ravinder Randhawa’s writing when a blogger friend Faye, from A Daydreamer’s Thoughts (who is also a freelance PR) asked me if I would be interested in reading her book A Wicked Old Woman – check out my thoughts on the book HERE. Now one of Ravinder’s other titles, The Coral Strand has recently been released here in the UK by Troubador Publishing and I was delighted to receive a copy in the post so that I could compare and contrast the two. Many thanks to all involved! Like the author’s previous novel, A Coral Strand hosts a variety of different characters both of Indian and British descent or a mixture of the two and there are a couple of different story-lines going on that although I found it difficult to follow at the beginning, merged together quite satisfyingly by the end of the novel.

My favourite thing about this book however, was that it was set across two different timelines. The first is in England, more specifically London in the late nineties where we follow a young woman called Sita as she desperately tries to put the dizzying puzzle pieces of her family together so that they make some sort of sense and so she can finally have a sense of belonging which she has lacked for much of her early life. It’s all a bit vague to begin with, the details are hazy and to be honest, the reader feels as much in the dark as Sita herself as she wonders over her strange peculiarities of a family. She is raised in a household with two very strong female characters, Emily and Champa, (who she amusingly refers to as The Mutant Memsahib and Champa Dumpa) neither of which are her mother. I don’t really want to give too much away about the plot but Sita ends up running away from the house or “The Mausoleum,” as she refers to it with arm-loads of expensive jewellery which in fact, end up being the solution to the mystery of where she comes from.

The second timeline and the one I enjoyed most is set some years earlier in 1935-1942 Bombay, now Mumbai, India and it focuses on Emily Miller, a recently married woman who has moved to India with her husband Thomas who is based over there. After leaving a dead-end job in a factory and being promised the world or if not the world, at least a palace to live in with servants at her beck and call, Emily is ecstatic about her new higher standing but she seems to have been grossly misinformed about her lot in life as shortly after they are married, Thomas is killed in suspicious circumstances. With barely a penny to her name and a reputation to uphold, Emily must use every bit of fight in her to create a lavish lifestyle to which she has already become accustomed and believes she deserves.

However, in creating “The English Rose Garden,” with Champa (her husband’s favourite “lady of the night”) and her servant known only as Girl, she also invites some rather sinister creatures to share her bed (yes, quite literally!). When all hell breaks loose, Emily, Champa and Girl are forced to flee back to the safe waters of England where Emily is determined to maintain her extravagant, lady of leisure position, something which she finds quite difficult as she struggles with the behaviour and actions of Girl and in recent years, Sita and has to face up to a past that comes back to haunt her.

This all may seem a little complicated and it was confusing for me also at first, especially when a number of minor characters are added into the mixture that provide further secrets and hardship for all concerned in a convoluted plot that takes a while to get to grips with. I didn’t really have a favourite character as such – they were all flawed in some way but this did make them ultimately more interesting and I enjoyed the whole process of trying to figure them out. I did find myself feeling quite sorry for all of them in different ways, especially Girl and Sita who did not seem to have much choice in their own situations or control over their own fate until they both admirably begin enforcing their own independence and rebelling against the tyrannical Emily. If I had to compare it with A Wicked Old Woman, I would probably say I enjoyed this story more, it seemed to have characters that were more readable and in general, a plot that was more structured with a definitive ending. Personally, I feel that the author has really found her voice and a great style with this novel and I wouldn’t hesitate to read another one from her.

The Coral Strand was released on 28th February 2016 by Troubadour Publishing. Many thanks to them and to Faye Rogers for allowing me to read a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

Blog Tour – A Wicked Old Woman by Ravinder Randhawa

Published December 5, 2015 by bibliobeth

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I am delighted to be taking part in a blog tour for acclaimed author Ravinder Randhawa’s new novel, A Wicked Old Woman, organised by the lovely Faye, a freelance PR and book blogger extraordinaire! To visit her blog A Daydreamer’s Thoughts, please click HERE.

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What’s it all about?:

Drama. Masquerade. Mischief.

A sharply observed, witty and confident novel. Linguistically playful, entertaining and provoking.

In a bustling British city, Kulwant mischievously masquerades as a much older woman, using her walking stick like a Greek chorus, ‘…stick-leg-shuffle-leg-shuffle…’ encountering new adventures and getting bruised by the jagged edges of her life. There’s the glamorous rebel who rescues her after a carefully calculated fall; Caroline, her gregarious friend from school days, who watched over her dizzy romance with ‘Michael the Archangel’, and Rani/Rosalind, who’s just killed a man …

Vividly bringing to life a bit of the 60s, 70s and 80s.

What did I think?:

After reading the synopsis of this novel, I was immediately intrigued and when invited to take part in a blog tour for the author, Ravinder Randhawa, I knew it was a story I had to read. Fiction about India has always been a bit of a passion of mine, whether set in India or in another country, usually England in my experiences. It encompasses a wide range of characters, all of whom have very different outlooks on what it has meant to be someone of Indian culture living in Britain through three decades of our history.

Generally, we tend to see life and the lives of others through the eyes of Kulwant who in the present time, is often accompanied by her stick and somewhat of a prickly, closed disposition. Of course there are reasons why she is so guarded, as the story continues and she reflects on her past we learn about the break-down of her marriage, her strained relationship with some of her children and a friendship that has lasted throughout the years, with Caroline, a white British woman who has been Kuli’s staunchest supporter. Their relationship was probably my favourite in the novel, I loved that Caroline took Kuli under her wing so that she did not feel as much of an outsider at school and is a driving force in the present to make sure Kuli is happy and makes the most of her life.

The supporting characters of this cast also play fantastic roles in this novel. We have poetic “Michael the Archangel” who asked for Kuli’s hand in marriage (and was gently let down) to “Myopic Maya,” who has had her own share of heart break but really comes into her own by the end of the story and finally, Rani/Rosalind whose sad state of affairs really tugged at my emotions. I have to admit that at points I did feel a little confused about what was going on exactly and I think that’s probably because I picked up and put down the book quite a few times. This book would probably benefit by being read in one or two sittings and it’s length (235 pages in my edition) means that this is a possibility. Once I had read a few pages however and was used to the style of writing, I really enjoyed the flow and meaning behind the novel.

Being a white British woman myself, I probably can’t completely understand or relate to what the author was describing in the novel i.e. how to live in a country where the culture is different from what you are born into, but I believe she got the message across very well and there were some beautiful moments. Reading her words feels almost like poetry and she has a real flair for language – in fact, there are wonderful, emotive lines on almost every page:

“…progress won’t come by changing a brick here and there, the whole structure was suspect and should be challenged as a whole.”

As a means of furthering my own education about Indian culture, this book definitely did the job and as a novel generally, it’s a fantastic piece of work that I think most people will be able to identify with even if there are differences in race. I learned a lot and will be thinking about some of these characters for a while as a result of this story.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

Intrigued? Want to know more? Make sure you check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour!

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RAVINDER RANDHAWA – A BIBLIOGRAPHY

Ravinder Randhawa is the acclaimed author of the novels Beauty and the Beast (YA), A Wicked Old Woman, The Tiger’s Smile and the short story collection Dynamite. She’s currently working on a trilogy: The Fire-Magician. Ravinder was a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Toynbee Hall, Queen Mary’s University, the University of London, and founded the Asian Women Writer’s Collective.

Ravinder was born in India, grew up in leafy Warwickshire, now lives in London and agrees with Samuel Johnson’s saying (though of course, in a gender non-specific way) ‘…if a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.’ Loves good coffee and really good thrillers.

Author Links Website: http://www.ravinderrandhawa.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RealRavs

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ravinderrandhawaauthor

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3518698.Ravinder_Randhawa