Indian Summer by Pratima Mitchell

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Indian Summer by Pratima Mitchell
Buy Indian Summer from Amazon.co.uk

Buy Indian Summer from Amazon.com

Genre: Teens
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Madeline Wheatley
Reviewed by Madeline Wheatley
Summary: This book covers a lot of ground. From a realistic start, with a credible teenage voice, it moves through high adventure to a totally Bollywood ending. Are you 15 and going nowhere in the school holidays? Travel to India with this book.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: January 2009
Publisher: Walker
ISBN: 978-1406308174

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Most of this story is told by two teenage girls, and their voice comes through strong and clear. Sarla and Bina have led very different lives. Sarla has grown up in England, while Bina lives in India, close to Sarla's grandparents. When Sarla travels to India to spend the summer with her grandparents she meets Bina and her friend Sidhartha. After a rocky start the three become friends and experience an eventful and life changing summer.

The book covers a lot of issues including arranged marriages, women's rights, the politics of India, and hostage taking. This makes it sound rather heavyweight - but it is very readable. Sarla's voice adds a lightness of touch, and the early sections of the book (when the story is told from her point of view) are pacey and engaging. When the narrative switches between Sarla and Bina the reader gets an inside view of the differences and difficulties in their lives. Sarla's increasing understanding of aspects of Indian life she initially misunderstood is well portrayed.

As the book progresses the impact of the girls' voices is reduced by the introduction of a range of subplots. These affect the pace of the story to the extent that one of the teenage readers I'd lent the book to nearly stopped reading it. At the end of the book the various elements are pulled together in a manner that will be familiar to anyone who has watched a Bollywood movie. It's certainly an ending to make you smile, but quite a contrast to the down to earth opening.

A strong thread in the book is family life: what makes a family, and the different choices people make within families. The role of women is explored and a number of contentious issues are raised. The quotes (from a range of sources) listed at the front of the book are key to this aspect of the story. I include them here in full:

A daughter is a disappointment. If you bring a daughter into this world, you have to be forgiven

To have a girl is to plant a seed in someone else's garden

Daughters aren't wanted in India

These are clearly not the author's views, but If you want to know why she has showcased these quotes at the front of the book – go and read Indian Summer.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Indian Summer put us in mind of another book about India which we enjoyed - Anila's Journey by Mary Finn. For anyone interested in further background on India we can cautiously recommend The Story of India by Michael Wood.

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