THE GOLDEN SON – Shilpi Somaya Gowda



I’m a fan of Indian novels, and this one did not disappoint.
It’s the story of Anil, born into a family of landowners and farmers. His father’s dearest wish is that Anil study medicine, and go to America to practice as a doctor. Which Anil does, but at considerable cost to family relationships, and his own love life. We’re witness to the ongoing, often heartbreaking conflict between Western career and lifestyle, and Eastern family ties and preferred lifestyle. It’s a constant tussle, and there are no easy choices.
The book has a sub-plot which involves the abuse and exploitation of Anil’s friend, Leena, when she marries into a thoroughly bad family. Previously I’ve read about the horrific crimes committed against new brides, and Leena’s story is no exception. I’ll leave it at that, so as not to write a spoiler.
An interesting feature of the book was the description of the ancient panchayat system, which I knew nothing about. In short, community disputes (often involving land or water rights and usage ) are solved within the community by a local open court , presided over by the leading family in the district. In this case, Anil’s family and on the death of his father, Anil finds himself unwillingly acting as referee to weekly panchayat telephone conferences between Texas and India! That’s what I enjoy about Indian novels: the juxtaposition of ancient and modern lives.
Altogether a rich, satisfying read.




Just about anything else you care to mention.  For example –

I’d rather read than go to the dentist, sort out my bank statement, weed my garden, wash dishes, clean windows, wash my car, give my cat a pill, take my cat in the car to the vet (ultimate horror experience),  or deal with the South African Revenue Service (SARS).  On reflection, dealing with SARS gets the Ultimate Horror Nomination, probably followed by visiting the dentist.  Clearly the aforegoing list is a complete no-brainer.  I mean, honestly now, who really wants to go to the dentist?  Really and truly? I challenge anyone to nominate dentist visits onto the My Favourites List.

I’d rather read than go to the movies or watch second-rate TV schlock; or listen to a worthy, improving lecture. I’d rather read than attend a music concert, classical, rock or pop concert, makes no difference. Reading for me!

I’d rather read than go sunbathing at the beach.  I’d definitely rather read than go hiking. I’d rather read than go to an exercise class.(Duh). I’d rather read than attend a formal dinner. I’d rather read than attend a cocktail party, or play Bingo.  What am I saying?  Bingo belongs in the first paragraph.  I have signed an oath in blood not to play Bingo. No-no-no-no: I refuse.  It’s official.

I might put down my book to go out and eat sushi. I would put down my book to rush to an annual book sale – can’t resist them. I would carefully close my book, drag out the glad rags, and go to the theatre. I would instantly snap my book shut to go and play Mah Jong.  I would pack my books, and possibly a few clothes, at the prospect of a family visit up country, or for an overseas trip.

I would happily close my book to receive a friend into my house. And I would cast my book aside with a wild shriek of abandon and head for my boudoir should my lover come calling. Erotica between book covers is no substitute for erotica under the covers. Prolonged, dedicated research on my part has proved this.

So there you have it. The bottom lines for my reading.  Re-reading this I realize that booze and chocolate have been left out of the lists. Perhaps I should slip them in somewhere.  And I notice I have left out shopping for clothes.  I could put my book down for an hour or two to torture myself in my favourite dress shop.  When you get older it’s a constant challenge to find garments that disguise the wrinkly, droopy, saggy bits. That’s the joy of reading: no matter how old and wrinkly you may be, you can always find a book that fits you; your book covers open obligingly and invite you inside for hours of companionable pleasure, no matter how over-weight you may be, no matter how spotty, greasy, sun-burned, blotchy or otherwise generally unattractive you might currently be.

I’m off to dust and sort my bookshelves, and then settle down with a cup of coffee and my latest book.  See ya later.  Much later.



I thought I hadn’t read much during July, but on checking my notebook, I discover I did manage a fair amount of reading, despite my involvement with judging two writing competitions. For once I’ve marked a novel as a 5 star read, something I seldom do. Isn’t it wonderful when a book sweeps you away for happy hours? I read The Gallery of Vanished Husbands in one sitting, a sure sign that the writer is weaving magic on the page.

You may be wondering why I’ve listed a cookery book in the Roundup. I told you I have eclectic reading tastes. I find it very relaxing to read cookery books, and this one is particularly appealing, with a multitude of gorgeous colour shots – not so much of the food, but of Bertus Basson’s ramblings in search of the perfect meat pie, the gutsiest Gatsby, the tastiest braaied mealies, the melktert sublime … the book is a hymn of praise to South African food, heritage and family.

Ratings: 5* – Outstanding! 4*+ – Good to very good; 3* – average; 2* – run-of-the-mill; 1* – dismal; zero * – no comment. DNF – did not finish

5* The Gallery of Vanished Husbands – Natasha Solomons. Jewish tradition collides with the London art world. Reviewed on this blog.

4* The year of living Danishly (Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country – Helen Russell : non-fiction; sub-title says it all. See review on this blog
4* “Homegrown” Bertus Basson with Russell Wasserfall and Roxy Spears. Non-fiction; cookbook/heritage/memoir .
4* The Restoration of Otto Laird – Nigel Packer. A quiet thoughtful life review.

3* The Solitude of Emperors – David Davidar . Indian novel – communalism v s sectarianism.
3*Sam and Me and the Hard Pear Tree – Jami Yeats-Kastner : traumatic story of family tragedy & recovery

Secrets – Nuruddin Farah – Somali novel. DNF reviewed on GR


Review from London, 1958. It’s the eve of the sexual revolution, but in Juliet Montague’s conservative Jewish community where only men can divorce women, she ¬finds herself a living widow, invisible. Ever since her husband disappeared seven years ago, Juliet has been a hardworking single mother of two and unnaturally practical. But on her thirtieth birthday, that’s all about to change. A wealthy young artist asks to paint her portrait, and Juliet, moved by the powerful desire to be seen, enters into the burgeoning art world of 1960s London, which will bring her fame, fortune, and a life-long love affair.
The Amazon review only gives a fraction of what’s to come in this wonderful, engrossing novel. I seldom award 5 stars, but the book gets my wholehearted 5 stars. I devoured it in one sitting, again, something I seldom do.
It’s a rich story, dealing with the world of conservative Jewish tradition, with the vibrant London art world set as counterpoint. As you can imagine, there’s ample scope for a contrasting cast of characters . We meet Juliet’s mother, Mrs Greene – the uber respectable Jewish mother, alternately bewildered and outraged by Juliet’s non-conformist behaviour. Especially when her daughter takes a goy lover (shock! horror!) the reclusive artist Max Langford, permanently scarred by his war experiences.
Juliet, after surviving seven years as an ‘aguna’ (a living widow) desperately wants a life outside the confines of her small London Jewish community. Once she stumbles into the vibrant London art world, she soon finds it. Some years later she bravely travels to the USA, the two kids in tow, in search of her errant husband, who she finally finds in LA : how much further could you get from a conservative Jewish London suburb? The location of her husband is the least of her shocking discoveries. I’ll leave it at that, so as not to release a spoiler.
What a life Juliet leads, what a book. I was so enthralled that I forgot to get cross about restrictive, outmoded, patriarchal practices such as aguna. Natasha Solomons is a great storyteller.
Highly recommended.