SECOND OPINION: Hillstation by Robin Mukherjee

Review published on November 11, 2016.

Dreaming of escape from his remote village in the Himalayan foothills, Rabindra entreats the gods to send him an English bride. When a saucy dance troupe arrives on the run from a Bombay crime boss, Rabindra believes that his prayers have been answered. Except that they have no interest in marrying anyone. As the traditional and conservative Indian village begins to unravel in the presence of these scandalous foreigners, surprising secrets emerge from the depths of its past.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is quirky and very, very funny. The language is so comical it made me laugh out loud. I loved the characterisation. Rabindra has had his head turned by his brother’s stories of England, where he spent time studying. The brother is described by his father as “son number one who went to England to become a Doctor”. As for Rabindra’s mother, she “doesn’t say anything because she is dead …….”.

The village is hidden in the Himalayan foothills and Rabindra’s father is obsessed with rules, class and propriety. It is a very closed society where religion and family values are paramount.

The book is original and not to be taken too seriously. It is a book to get lost in and enjoy the differences between the cultures. However, there are some emotional parts, especially in the second half of the book. There are some lovely anecdotes and one especially stayed with me. It comes about when Rabindra realises how different his life is from that of the wider world: “the world is so very large, suddenly with so many rooms and corners and corridors and stairs that you could turn up or down or not or never take, or take looking down or up.”

The above is about choices, something which we in the Western world take for granted. Rabindra’s world is very closed and regimented, with no room for choice. The book also questions whether the grass really is greener on the other side.

Rabindra’s culture is frustrating, but is that of the wider world really any better? Above all, the book is about love and luck. It is said that it is better to be lucky than rich but, in my opinion, to have love and luck is a great combination. This book is highly recommended and it would make a great holiday read as it is an “easy” read with attitude.

Dorothy Flaxman 5/4

Hillstation by Robin Mukherjee
Oldcastle Books 9781843447429 pbk Jul 2016

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