- Paperback: 242 pages
- Publisher: Esplanade; 1st Edition edition (April 10 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1550652397
- ISBN-13: 978-1550652390
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.7 x 21.6 cm
- Shipping Weight: 503 g
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #3,377,901 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Chef Paperback – Apr 10 2008
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About the Author
Jaspreet Singh s stories have appeared in Walrus, Fiddlehead, World Cup Cricket Anthology, and Francis Ford Coppola s Zoetrope. Seventeen Tomatoes won the 2004 McAuslan First Book Prize and has been translated into Spanish and Punjabi. He was the 2006 07 Markin-Flanagan Writer-in-Residence at theUniversity of Calgary.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Mostly this book is about political issues that plague India, Pakistan and the pivot is Kashmir. Kashmir is where the best and the worst play out. Another theme is unrequited love both on a personal level and the unrequited love for one's country and countrymen. Both these loves almost break Kip and it does break some of the other characters. I don't want to give the impression this is a philosophy book though that's here. Singh shows the human rights offenses with a deft touch. Bombs don't go off in your face; the prose builds up layer upon layer until there's a slow implosion. I kept thinking, "he doesn't mean that, surely not", and then, with dread, "he does mean that". It makes the horror more real but without having to wipe blood off your face. The relationships have a push pull that read frighteningly close to real life. An example of this is the story of a woman, Irem, who is Muslim and living in Pakistan with her husband. She's so desperately unhappy in her marriage she throws herself into the Ganges and winds up on the Hindu side. She's scooped out of the water and taken prisoner for being an illegal alien and a possible terrorist. She's under the general's care which is how Kip meets her and falls in love. He's never sure if his love is returned or not. This is a sad book. And so well written it could break your heart.
At first glance the novel seemed to be celebration of good food in spicy India but when I read more I realised that Jaspreet Singh had cooked the culture and history of modern India. "There is no such things as Indian food, but there are methods." In fact there is no such thing as Indian people as well. There are Marathis, Sikhs, kashmiris, Hayderabadis Bengalis and thousand more. Food connects people and food keeps them apart. Mutiny of 1857 had started because of Muslim soldiers given pork fat.
Jaspreet Singh has written a wonderful book seriously funny and seriously, serious.
So, why did I like this novel while other literary-minded readers did not? I am probably better-read than most reviewers on the culture and history of India and Pakistan. I've recently taken college-level courses on these subjects and I'm an avid reader of literary novels written by major Pakistani and Indian authors. Also, I've listened to a number of lectures about the Kashmiri situation. I have a modest understanding of the Sikh religion and how it can influence the thinking, personality, and motivations of its followers. And finally, I take great pleasure in novels that challenge me to sympathize with and understand main characters who are fundamentally different from anyone I've known before.
Kip, the main character in this novel, is not an easy fellow to comprehend. By Western standards, he is a perplexing oddity. He is a man who keenly and passionately observes life, but for the most part, does not engage with it. He is also a man who has a very poor understanding of his own feelings and motivations. Since the story is told entirely from Kip's point of view, this makes the success of any secondary characterization extremely difficult. This is one of the novel's greatest weaknesses and the main reason why I did not give it a higher rating.
The prose is lush, evocative, original, and brilliant. The story seems so genuine that the reader feels like a voyeur.
Don't read this novel if you are looking for a strong compelling story leading to a definite conclusion. This is not that type of novel. This is a book of reminiscences about an ordinary life in an extraordinary, politically significant, and exotic setting. This is a deep, subtle, unflinchingly honest view of life in all its complexity. It is a book about coming to terms with the reality of human imperfection and cruelty. It's about making peace with the dark core of humanity.
My eyes brimmed with tears during some of the passages in this novel--not with sadness, but with acceptance and truth. I was also left with a feeling of hope...that perhaps there is a solution to the Kashmiri situation, and that it is happening right now on a very small scale that, hopefully, will grow exponentially.
I had the audio version and had the full Indian accent to make the story seem in place. Wish it had more of an ending though. Wanted some resolution to his needs.