Sari & Sins

It is very tempting to compare this romantic novel by Nisha Minhas to a work by Jane Austen. Both authors describe contemporary English society and its marriage mores. Both have bossy parents, scheming youngsters, secrets and scandals; deceit, and moments of truth. The quest for money versus the quest for love plays a great role, as does what type of vehicle everyone drives around in. The wit is delicious, and by far the best part.

Samir had a choice: he could park next to the red Mercedes or the silver Mercedes, or, alternatively, he could mingle with the black Mercedes and the gold Mercedes.
'Can't Indians buy something other than Mercedes?' he said, blipping his blue Mercedes.

We have a pretty and passive heroine; an evil, but beautiful witch who does everything she can to destroy her; men who let themselves be led astray oh so easily; and two loyal friends and an outspoken sister for comic relief.

What this novel has which those of Austen do not, is sex, frequent and explicit; swearing, violence, indecent exposure, including tattooed buttocks, and artificial snow. It also has brown people, who, as far as I know, do not feature in Jane's genteel company of the 18th century.

Sari & Sins offers a humorous glimpse of the dilemmas many children of South Asian parents have to face. Having a secret English girlfriend and then marrying a parentally selected Indian bride like Samir (the, um, hero) does is not uncommon. Other parts are a bit more over the top - Cloey, the English girlfriend, behaves too much like a vicious and naive 14-year-old to be believable. And Kareena - the patient, good girl who happens to be the heroine of this story - is far from the "match" to Cloey's antics that the blurb promises her to be. She's the boring character who gets everything because she waits.

This novel might as easily have been called Lust & Love. Or Henna & Harridans. It's an unfocused story with some spot-on observations, mainly of British Indians, as well as the prejudices of both the English and the Asians. The book is a fun read, but it lacks memorable events or characters. It does have the guaranteed, happy, Austen ending, however.

Bernie picked up a bottle of semi-skimmed. Surely it wasn't going to fall to pieces because a dark man was staying with the girls in that cottage? Surely the villagers in the pub last night were overreacting when they said the invasion had started? How it only takes a speck of black to turn a tin of white paint grey. House prices would fall and the bridle paths would be turned into flea markets for spices and fruit. Crop rotation would suffer with the overuse of the fallow fields for coriander. Harvesting would become a thing of the past and farmers would all wear turbans or keffiyehs. The population of Bruckley would increase twofold, threefold, a hundred thousand foreigners in a thousand houses. Drugs! The church would be burnt to the ground, the shops turned into shrines. Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Unemployedism. The spirit of Bruckley would become lost to the peoples of other lands. Overreacting?

Sari & Sins was published in 2003 by Simon & Schuster UK

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