Corner Shop by Roopa Farooki

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Corner Shop by Roopa Farooki

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Melony Sanders
Reviewed by Melony Sanders
Summary: The Khalils are a seemingly happy family. Zaki runs a corner shop, his son is a lawyer, and his grandson is an up-and-coming football player. But life is not always what it seems, particularly when Zaki is having an affair with his son's wife...
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 355 Date: October 2008
Publisher: Pan Books
ISBN: 978-0330443647

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Zaki Khalil has apparently led a straightforward life; having left his native country to avoid being a shopkeeper in his father's shop, he has ended up being a shopkeeper in London. However, that was never his plan - he had always expected bigger and better things - and is forced to live his life vicariously through his grandson, who is a talented football player. Life is spiced up a little when he embarks on an affair. The only problem is that the affair is with his daughter-in-law Delphine, who is still married to his son, Jinan. Will he manage to find happiness without destroying his family life?

This is a book that stresses character development. Zaki is the key figure, around whom everyone else revolves, so it is perhaps just as well that he is a likeable character. He is extremely laid-back, to the extent that his corner shop almost seems to run itself. Everyone knows that his son's wife, Delphine, is Zaki's ex-girlfriend, and all that is perfectly acceptable until Zaki and Delphine hook up together again. Zaki is a great character - despite the fact that he is clearly not an innocent, he cares deeply for those around him and is only too well aware of the results of his actions. It is a long time since a character in a book has stood out for me like this one.

Delphine is another great character. In fact, being of an age, I could understand her even more than I could Zaki. Having said goodbye to her child-bearing years, she is terrified by the thought of not being needed. Her son has a girlfriend and is likely to be moving out and her husband is a successful lawyer, and needs nothing more than a trophy wife. At one point, Delphine becomes deeply depressed, something I think the author managed to convey very well - a little too well, in fact, because I found myself becoming depressed as I read.

The story is told in an interesting way. It is split into two parts, the first of which tells the story from each of the characters' points of view, but in the third person. It also dances around from period to period; for example, it begins with a chapter about Zaki's grandson and his hopes and aspirations, but the next chapter has skipped back in time to when Zaki met his son's mother. The second part of the book deals with the aftermath of Zaki and Delphine's affair, but interestingly, Zaki tells much of the story in the first person, interspersed with Delphine's and the grandson's story in the third person. This may sound strange, but it is surprisingly effective, because it gives each chapter, and therefore character, its own identity.

I loved the ending to the book. I like ends to be tied up, and this is done very neatly here by skipping forward twenty-five years, so that we have a good idea of what happened to each character. However, it wasn't so neat that it felt unnatural, just enough so that I felt satisfied and could finish the book feeling that it was well worth the read.

When I first started the book, I expected it to be about multi-racial differences - the Khalils are Pakistani, whereas Delphine is French, and they all live in England. However, quite refreshingly, it wasn't. It isn't that the subject is glossed over at all, it is more that it just doesn't really pertain to the main storyline. I liked that, because all too often authors stress the differences between different races, almost making it more of a problem than it actually is. All in all, it felt very natural.

On a more negative note, there were parts to the book that I felt dragged unnecessarily. Zaki's grandson is a talented footballer, so some chapters were about his experience. I'm personally not in the slightest bit interested in football and these parts bored me silly. Nor was I particularly interested in his girlfriend, a gorgeous model, who just seemed lifeless and dull. I understand why the author included these sections - she wanted to show that everyone has their dreams - but frankly I thought they were unnecessary and should at least have been shortened.

On the whole, I enjoyed the book. It is certainly going to be most appreciated by women in their late thirties and early forties, simply because of the focus on Delphine and her feelings of hopelessness. Thankfully though, that is not the only focus, otherwise it would have been just too depressing. Of course, it is very character-driven, so if you are expecting something with a bit of action, you will probably be disappointed. Otherwise though, this is a great contemporary novel, looking at the complexities of modern life with enough humour to make it an interesting read. Four stars out of five.

If you enjoy this sort of book, you may also like All We Ever Wanted Was Everything by Janelle Brown and My Name is Salma by Fadia Faqir.

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Buy Corner Shop by Roopa Farooki at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Corner Shop by Roopa Farooki at


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