Mama Tandoori by Ernest van der Kwast

Review published on July 15, 2017.

The main difficulty with reviewing this book is deciding which of the categories it should go in. In the blurb on the back cover it is called a novel so would seem to fit in with BookHugger, but it reads more like a memoir so maybe BookLife is more relevant. It is certainly very amusing but also poignant and moving.

The story of the author’s childhood in the Netherlands and his extended family is told through a series of anecdotes. The main character is his exuberant, domineering Indian mother, Veena. She is a larger-than-life, hilarious character and the source of most of the humour comes from her relationship with her strait-laced, oppressed Dutch husband, her insistence on haggling for everything, her great hopes for her sons and her motto of “free is good”. There are other stories – the uncle who goes to Canada only popping up again every few years, the mother’s trip to Lourdes with her eldest son who had learning difficulties, the author’s visit to meet his Indian relatives – but it is the personality of Veena that is at the centre of the book.

It is an unusual and well-written book with some touching moments to balance the humour, but for me it is more a series of anecdotes rather than a novel.

Berwyn Peet 3/2

Mama Tandoori by Ernest van der Kwast
Scribe UK 9781911344353 pbk Aug 2017

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