27 September 2011
Book Review: A Scandalous Secret by Jaishree Misra
I haven't yet anything by author Jaishree Misra, so when I was offered a copy of her latest book A Scandalous Secret to review, I was quite keen and decided to accept. I really liked the cover of it, the teal blue working really well in contrast with the pinks and oranges of the main images, giving a bit of an exotic look about it. This is Misra's third book so I hoped she'd be in the rhythm of a good writing style, and after seeing on the back that it would apparently be perfect for fans of Dorothy Koomson, it seemed like a read I would definitely enjoy. However, now I've finished it I would say it doesn't live up to its dramatic synopsis on the back, and I found it all a bit too lacklustre and lacking to be classed as a great read, which was unfortunate.
The book is the story about Indian woman Neha and a secret that she's been hiding from her entire family and her husband Sharat for a long, long time, around 18 years in fact. The secret is that she's got a daughter that she gave up for adoption, managing to hide it from everyone because she was away studying at the time. I think Misra intends for the reader to feel sympathy for Neha's plight, for what she went through with her baby, and being alone but I just couldn't. I don't know why, I just found Neha to be quite unlikeable, running away to a spa when her daughter threatens to come and visit, and still not being honest to anyone about the secret in her life. Her husband Sharat was far nicer, I really warmed to him and felt sorry for him being misled by Neha for all these years.
Sonya is Neha's daughter, who has been happily adopted by her parents who have given her a great life. However, now she's about to go to University, she wants to find out more about the mother who gave her up for adoption as a baby all those years ago. I really liked Sonya, she wanted to find out about her mother for the right reasons, and was really conscious of treating her adoptive parents carefully, and not to upset them by pursuing her birth mother. I really enjoyed the relationship she had with her best friend Estella too, the pair seemed really close and I felt the relationship was realistically written. Estella was probably the most fun out of all the characters really. Sonya did go off the rails a bit towards the end and I started to dislike her a bit but once she got through that, she was okay again. Sonya's parents were great, supportive of their daughter yet between the lines you can read the pain they are going through that she is looking for her biological mother, and Misra has done a good job here.
I didn't think the writing in this book was anything special if I'm honest and I did find myself being a bit bored by it at times. I see how Misra has tried to bring in some drama, by not introducing Neha and Sonya straight, and including Sonya's travels around India too was actually quite interesting but I found it all a bit too slow for me, and not enough happened around the main story to keep my interest piqued. Not having read a book set in India before, I found it interesting to read about the place, its culture and things about it which I felt Misra has put across really well in the book. I found the descriptions of the places, the poverty, the food, the people to be really fascinating and experiencing it through the two touritsts eyes makes it fascinating as they're in awe of what they are seeing, much as we would be if we were in their position. It's just a shame the main story didn't live up to the bits in between, and I found the conclusion to the whole saga to be a bit of a letdown compared to the rest of the book which was a shame. It isn't the worst book I've read, but I don't think I'd go out of my way to pick up another of Misra's books after reading this one. There are some likeable things about it but for me, the bad outweighed the good and I was just pleased to finish it. A bit of a disappointment unfortunately!