China Room: The heartstopping and beautiful novel, longlisted for the Booker Prize 2021
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Now that strand – but much more firmly rooted in time, place and harsh reality, forms one of the two point of view tales which are interleaved in the novel – and perhaps draws more on a Shakespearean tradition of mistaken identity than magic realism. What fantastic night we had, the food was amazing and the service was great, nothing was to much trouble, all the staff looked after us and made us feel special..Would give Steve and his staff and the food a 5 STAR 🌟 rating..The prices were... very reasonable and food amazing2✨️✨️✨️✨️✨️
In the first, set in the 1920s, three young brides marry three brothers who live on a small farm in rural Punjab. Under the strict rules women lived under there, they are not allowed to see their husbands' faces, and the youngest of them, Mehar, is seduced by the youngest brother, who is not her husband. I admit that I am an unabashed Indophile, so much so that all my cats are named after Bollywood actresses - so I was, I guess, predisposed to enjoy this, since many of my favorite books ( A Suitable Boy; Manil Suri's Hindu Gods Trilogy; everything by Anuradha Roy, etc) are by Indian authors and/or about Indian subjects. However, Sahota's last (also Booker nommed) novel I was decidedly ambivalent about, finding it difficult in places, and not quite so engaging as his latest.
They live in the china room, which sits at a slight remove from the house and is named for the old willow-pattern plates that lean on a high stone shelf, a set of six that arrived with Mai years ago as part of her wedding dowry. Far beneath the shelf, at waist level, runs a concrete slab that the women use for preparing food, and under this is a little mud-oven. The end of the room widens enough for a pair of charpoys to be laid perpendicular to each other and across these two string beds all three women are made to sleep. This is a really solid novel with an interesting story, sympathetic (but imperfect) characters, and excellent writing. I was quite enchanted by it and easily immersed in both timelines, which are separated by three generations. It will almost certainly be on my own short list, even if this year's judges pass it up.
SAHOTA: Yeah, sure, so it's a photo of my great-grandmother holding me when I was a very newborn. And the photo was always there in my mind, and in my mind, it was always at the end of the book has a way of knotting these two stories together - the story of a great-grandmother, a story of Mehar, as you outlined, which is loosely based on a family legend of mine or my family's, some piece of lore about a great-grandmother who didn't know which of four brothers actually, in fact, was her husband. The author’s second novel “The Runaways” was shortlisted for the 2015 Booker Prize and was also winner of that year’s Royal Society of Literature’s Encore Award for literary second novels. There as he reflects on his upbringing – and the overt as well as persistent racism that his family faced after Thatcher-era redundancy lead them to give up their life in Derby (surrounded by family and kin) to set up a shop in an otherwise uniformly-white ex-mining town and which acted as a trigger for his addiction. He also starts a tentative involvement with a visiting Doctor and an initially awkward friendship with a local teacher (both around 20 years older than him) and the two start to draw him out of his addiction, while he also reflects on the locally well-known story of his great grandmother and discovers insights into his Aunt’s past.
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The story, inspired by Sunjeev Sahota’s family history is created with strong story-telling skills and a fair share of claustrophobic tension. The novel takes his title from the cramped china room – complete with willow-pattern plates—that the breeding mare (Mahar) must go to when requested by her officious mother-in-law to meet her “husband” and hopefully, “get with child.” Monkman, Betty C; Sidey, Hugh S (2001). The White House: An Historic Guide. Washington, D.C.: White House Historical Association. ISBN 0-912308-79-6. Some have opined that this interweaving of two tales, apparently based on the author's own family stories, and set 70 years apart, gives short shrift to the more contemporary one - but while I'd agree it could have perhaps used a bit more explication in places, I didn't think it suffered any from the spotlight placed on the 1929 section.
I find it hard to rate this book as it is not my culture that this book is centered on and I read that this book is somewhat based off of the author’s own family history, but I still want to express my opinions on this book the best that I can and this review might turn into a rant... If this book interests you, don’t let my dissatisfaction in the book hinder you from reading it, but do proceed with caution as this book effected me mentally while I read it. Mehar is not so obedient a fifteen-year-old that she won’t try to uncover which of the three brothers is her husband.”The second first-party strand is set 70 years later – as Mehar’s great grandson, shortly before taking up an unconditional offer to study Maths. at Imperial, travels to visit his Aunt and Uncle in India, ostensibly for a family visit but really in an attempt to go cold turkey from heroin addiction. His initial technique seems to be largely to use whisky as a substitute, and in the face of his Aunt’s hostility and his Uncle’s embarrassment he is shipped off to a deserted family farm and ends up staying in the same China Room. The first sentence reads, “Mehar is not so obedient a fifteen-year-old that she won’t try to uncover which of the three brothers is her husband.” SIMON: It is difficult, and I say this with admiration, to read about the total subjugation. You know, I would certainly feel free to call it a criminal subjugation of three women in a house. It's hard not to reflect on that part of what draws you in is it's hard for the great-grandson to understand how people lived. And yet, we're still - these generations are wound up with each other, aren't we?