Saturday 28 May 2016

Review ~ Eden Gardens by Louise Brown

Headline Review
April 2016

A bit of blurb

Eden Gardens, Calcutta, the 1940s. In a ramshackle house, streets away from the grand colonial mansions of the British, live Maisy, her Mam and their ayah, Pushpa.

Whiskey-fuelled and poverty-stricken, Mam entertains officers in the night - a disgrace to British India. All hopes are on beautiful Maisy to restore their good fortune.

But Maisy's more at home in the city's forbidden alleyways, eating bazaar food and speaking Bengali with Pushpa, than dancing in glittering ballrooms with potential husbands.

Then one day Maisy's tutor falls ill. His son stands in. Poetic, handsome and ambitious for an independent India, Sunil Banerjee promises Maisy the world.

So begins a love affair that will cast her future, for better and for worse. Just as the Second World War strikes and the empire begins to crumble...

This is the other side of British India. A dizzying, scandalous, dangerous world, where race, class and gender divide and rule

My thoughts:

I was drawn to the book by its cover which I think has a great sense of place and which conjures the golden heat of a country in turmoil and that's exactly what this book is about; it's about a country at odds with itself, about women who are used, and who are bought and sold as commodities, with little regard for them as people, and it’s also about the sights, scents and sounds of India, which come alive in glorious technicolour. Don't be fooled by the cover as this is not a book for the fainthearted, as parts of the story are difficult to read without feeling a huge sense of hopelessness.

Initially, I thought that the book was rather hard going in places and it took me a little time to warm to Maisy, whose interesting and courageous story takes centre stage. But the writing is good, if a little jumpy, and once I had I settled into the story, probably about two thirds of the way in, I became engrossed in the way India was coming alive in my imagination.

The author writes with great passion about a subject she clearly feels passionate about and that comes across in the way she describes the minutiae of daily life and in her relationships with her characters who she describes in such intricate detail. Reading the notes about the inspiration for the novel at the end of the book goes a long way to explain just why the author has such a fascination for India and its people.

I think that this is difficult book to 'enjoy' as it's quite heart wrenching in places, and in a way the cover sort of suggests that the book will be a bit fluffy, which is a bit of a misnomer, as the book is anything but that.

Overall, it’s a good debut novel from an author who is worth watching to see what she comes up with next.

Best Read with....Bowls of Jhal Muri, spicy with chilli and coriander, and delicate cups of Masala Chai...

About the Author

Louise Brown has lived in Nepal and travelled extensively in India, sparking her enduring love of South Asia.

Eden Gardens is her debut novel although she has also written critically acclaimed non fiction books.

My thanks to Headline Review and Bookbridgr for my copy of this book.



  1. I agree Jo, this was a deceptively difficult and brutal read hiding behind the most beautiful cover - fabulous but a touch misleading x

    1. Thanks Jan - I just read your review on Goodreads and agree entirely x


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