Monthly Archives: August 2017

The Windfall, by Diksha Basu

Windfall_1062

The Windfall

By Diksha Basu

Crown, 2017

304 pages

The Windfall is a story about a family in New Delhi that comes into money later in life when the father, Mr Jha, starts a website that that gets bought out for millions. After receiving this windfall, Mr. Jha and his wife to decide to move from an apartment in the modest east Delhi community that they have lived in for over thirty years, to a house in Gurgaon, a wealthy new enclave where there is no noise, little street traffic and everyone drives fancy cars. While they make this move, their son Rupak, who is getting an MBA in upstate New York,  grapples with life in the United States, and a relationship he is in with an American woman.

This is a family story that explores what it means to have wealth. The Jha’s have more than enough money to buy their house in Gurgaon, but flounder in the new culture, where Mrs. Jha’s cotton saris make her look like a maid and where Mr. Jha feels they must buy matching luggage before they fly business class to visit Rupak in New York. Mr. Jha knows the luggage will be checked and barely visible during their journey, but he wants to make the right impression while standing in line at the airport.  It’s also a look at contemporary India and what it means to be a young Indian who goes to the US to study and the pressures that choice brings. Most of the drama revolves around the move in to the house and the issues that come up as Mr. and Mrs. Jha settle in to their new world.

Basu has a lovely writing style and has created an engaging cast of characters. By the end, I felt like I was right there with the Jha’s in their living room, drinking imported alcohol, sitting on their Swarovski couch (also imported, from Japan), and talking about joining the local country club.  If you enjoy a family drama, or books about South Asia, this is an entertaining tale that looks at a side of Delhi that I’ve barely seen depicted in fiction.

I read about this book in the Poets and Writers “First Fiction” issue that came out this summer. I started this blog after reading about so many interesting debut novelists in that issue five years ago. I continue to find their list to be a good way to learn about new authors and books.

Basu lives in New York, but is originally from Delhi.

 

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Golden Hill, by Francis Spufford

Golden Hill

Golden Hill

Francis Spufford

Scribner 2017

321 pages

Earlier this summer, I got a copy of Golden Hill by Francis Spufford from an English friend. The book published in the UK last year and she said it was a fun read, historical fiction set in New York. I don’t read much historical fiction, but I love it when a friend suggests a book that I have never heard of, so I gave it a read. It was only when I enjoyed the book enough to read up on the author that I discovered this was a debut novel.

The book is set in 1746 and revolves around Mr. Smith a young man who has just arrived in New York from London. He has a bill for 1000 pounds and when Mr. Smith goes to cash it with a local merchant, he is told that he has to wait until another ship arrives from London to verify that this bill is real. Mr. Smith, who never reveals why he is in New York or what he plans to do with his money when he gets it, spends his time in wait with multiple wealthy New Yorkers, including Mr. Lovell, the man who wouldn’t cash the bill, and who has an attractive daughter who Mr. Smith flirts with.

I don’t want to give away too much of the story as it starts out slow, but picks up drama as Mr. Smith runs into trouble in his new home. But this is an entertaining read and also a look at 18th century New York City when the city only had 7000 residents and was provincial when compared with London.

Spufford lives in the UK and has published five non-fiction books. If you want to learn more about the book’s plot, The New Yorker also wrote about it.

Happy summer reading!

 

 

 

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