Wednesday, 27 May 2015

A Hungry God by Pia Chaudhuri

Aruna is born with an unusual gift, which despite its extreme significance, leaves her with the ghastly side effect of burning red hot, and in turn causing her to soak everything she comes into contact with in rivers of sweat. 

Her mother despises her, the villagers fear her, and her new husband is repulsed by her. But when her marriage takes her to London, Aruna’s new life finally drives her to face up to her nature and carry out a deed she will always regret. 

Maya was abandoned by her mother at just six years old. When she makes an unexpected discovery as an adult, she questions the circumstances surrounding her disappearance for the first time. She leaves London and embarks on a journey of discovery to India, her ancestral homeland, to find the truth. 

While Aruna and Maya’s lives collide, weather patterns shift, an enchanted forest opens its heart, a sister appears only at night, dreams become messages, sacrifices are made, and an unusual gift is finally understood – ensuring the circle of life remains unbroken forever. 

Goodreads description

Pia Chaudhuri's A Hungry God is a book that shows that some really excellent new authors are using the self-publishing route to bring high quality fiction to the market. Pia is also a member of the Magic Realism Books Facebook Group. 

 As you will have realized  I really enjoyed this book, which is part of the strong tradition of magic realism that arises from the meeting of Indian and European cultures, and which is most exemplified by the books of Salman Rushdie. Chaudhuri's story moves from India to the UK and back again, and from the heat of South Asia to the cold winters of London. Heat, as you will have seen in the description above, is carried by Aruna within herself.  

The book focuses on two strong young women who grow up in two very different worlds and yet are strongly linked. I am unable to say more without giving away a key plot element. I am not sufficiently au fait with Indian mythology and the Hindu religion to put the magic element in context, but as a result of reading the book I want to learn more. And to my mind Pia Chaudhuri succeeds better than Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni does in The Mistress of Spices in creating credible magic in a realist setting.  

The realism is also very strong and the author is not afraid to tackle harsh subjects like domestic abuse. As I have said before on this blog it is the realism that makes magic realism work. 

An excellent first novel from a young author I will be watching with interest. 

I received this book free from the author in return for a fair review.

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