Book Reviews

Erotic Stories For Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal (Review #26)

Thank You very much to publisher – Harper Collins and NetGalley for a review copy.
Genre: General Fiction (Adult)
Release date: 09 03 2017
Price*:£ 10.49(GBP)/ $ 11.98(USD)
Pages: ~320
My rating: 9/10
You can get this book here:
UK: Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows
US:Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows
Summed up in few words: Secrets of the community, naughty widows, finding your voice.

The description of the book: Hilarious and heartwarming, an east-meets-west novel for fans of THE LITTLE COFFEE SHOP OF KABUL Every woman has a secret life… With visions of emancipating the women of the Sikh community she left behind as a self-important teenager, Nikki is shocked to find her creative writing class is a group of barely literate women who have no interest in her ideals of liberation. To her surprise, the white dupatta of the widow hides more than just their modesty – these are women who have spent their lives in the shadows of fathers, brothers and husbands; being dutiful, raising children and going to temple, but whose inner lives are as rich and fruitful as their untold stories. As they begin to open up to each other about womanhood, sexuality, and the dark secrets within the community, Nikki realises that the illicit nature of the class may place them all in danger. East meets west and tradition clashes with modernism in a thought-provoking cross-cultural novel that might make you look again at the women in your life…

How this book made me feel: When I started reading this book, I really didn’t know what to expect from it. The name of the book was simply unbelievable. The more I read it, the more it shocked me, and I know for sure, that after reading this book, I will never look the same at South Asian aunties and the community. The description of the book is quite accurate. British born Punjabi Nikki gets a job in gurdwara in Southall, London, to teach reading and writing to Punjabi widows, who are mostly from villages. She quickly notices that these widows are not interested in learning how to write, instead, they are very keen to share their erotic fantasies with other women. While teaching the widows, Nikki learns, that Southall, and the community itself are hiding many dirty secrets of its own.

I found the characters of this book very amusing, and at the same time very close to my heart.  I loved how author put two opposites in the book; Nikki, who wants to live her life and make her own choices, and her sister Mindi-who still wants things done the traditional way. All the widows, who participated in this book, were really interesting and diverse personalities. They all had a story to tell, not only erotic one, but the one of their life as well. I do know quite a lot of South Asian people, and the way author described them in the book is very accurate. I am not including their fantasies, but the part of how they present themselves to society, is quite accurate. Respect of the family is the main value in Asian society, and all people try to maintain that. That’s why Nikki is kind of rebel against traditional values, which is sometimes quite shameful in the eye of the community. Everything in this book sounds very real and believable: characters, plot and the way author described places used in this book, it’s unbelievably accurate. I liked that author included more than one character in this book, and told the story from Nikki’s and her employer’s Kulvinder’s perspective. Kulvinder has huge influence in the book, with the tragic story of her daughter Maya, who died very young. Through the views of Nikki and Kulvinder, the story of the book unfolds very nicely, and keeps the suspense going.

The plot of the book is very original; nevertheless, it tells couple of different stories at the same time. Most of the action in this book happens in Southall, London. As the author said in the book, she lived in Southall, while she was studying at university. That explains why she wrote about this place with such detail. She described every corner and street with great accuracy, and beautifully presented the spirit of that place. How do I know? I visited that place many times, that’s why the similarity shocked me. This book tells not only the story of widow’s fantasies, but also involves murders, and many dark secrets of the society itself, and that really made the book amusing, twisty and hard to put down. The more Nikki gets involved with the widows, the more this story turns and thickens. Author discussed a lot of important topics in this book, such as: honour killings; family relations between parents and children, and what honour and respect of the family means in Asian society; immigration and adjustment problems; and many more. Author showed really nicely, that women, even after marriage remain women, and that after washing dishes, cooking and cleaning houses, they have their wishes and desires, which are not always fulfilled. Let me tell you one thing, those erotic stories they tell are really kinky, and has wide variety of action going on, so it is definitely not for young people to read.

So, as I mentioned before, and as it is obvious from the name of the book, it contains so foul language but at the same time is very comic and funny to read.  This book is quite detailed, but it doesn’t make it boring, it helps to understand the situations better. I really liked, that the chapters were divided, so it was easier and more fun to read it.  The ending of the book is nice and ended the book really well, by putting all characters at peace. To conclude, I really enjoyed this layered, funny and very beautifully written book and I do recommend reading it to everyone, who would like to have an insight of South Asian community, and get involved with those great topics which author brought up in this book.

About the author: Balli Kaur Jaswal is the author of Inheritance (2013, 2016), a universal story of family, identity and belonging, and Sugarbread (2016), a story about fitting in and confronting the past (and a finalist for the 2015 Epigram Books Fiction Prize), both dealing with the Punjabi Sikh community in Singapore. Born in Singapore and raised in Japan, Russia and the Philippines, she studied creative writing in the United States. She has received writing fellowships from the University of East Anglia and Nanyang Technological University, and was named Best Young Australian Novelist of 2014 by the Sydney Morning Herald. Her third novel, Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows, a dark comedy set in a Punjabi immigrant enclave in London, will be released by HarperCollins UK and William Morrow in 2017.

*-the price was taken from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com at current date. Price might change at your time of purchase. The links used in this post for book purchases are affiliates.

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