A gorgeously-written emotional mine-field, so impeccably crafted these characters will sit with you, telling their stories and holding your heart, long after the final reading.
Told from alternating third-person POVs, the story opens us to the world of our main protagonist, Yasmin Ghorami, a London-based junior doctor of Bengali descent, twenty-six years old. Yasmin is so disconnected from her own needs, a virtual “stranger to herself”, and so deeply judgmental of those around her (in particular, her strangely unsettling family) that, as fascinating as she is to unpack, she is hard for the reader to love.
Yet Yasmin is loved, deeply, by her endearing and under-appreciated mother, Anisah (as lovingly-drafted a character as one is likely to meet between the pages), and her somewhat blankly-beautiful fiancée Dr. Joe, with his “good clean linen-cupboard scent” and his fringed-blond look, “like the hero of an old black-and-white movie”.
Joe’s mother, Harriet Sangster, a free-spoken feminist writer and professor, living in her “discreetly sumptuous Georgian terrace”, (our second third-person POV), is a sharply decisive woman, with eyes “like the sky on a scorching day”, and a set of mannerisms guaranteed to get under your skin with their blatant narcissism.
As we get to know the force that is Harriet (and find, despite her harshness, a vulnerability that is undeniably endearing), like beams of brilliance radiating outward from her influence, we come to understand the looseness of the boundaries holding those around her stable, including the enigma that is her son Joe, and the trappings of te world Yasmin occupies.
Without giving the plot away (no spoilers here), it’s clear that for these characters “life (indeed) is not simple”. For love, it seems, can encompass equally measures of “leather and peppermint”, suffocating boredom, shame and rage, tenderness and the “furious pleasures of intimacy”.
And threaded throughout it all, as Yasmin (and those that surround her) may or may not be lucky enough to discover, the compassion and connection that must be anchored within to give life, and the love it seeks, ultimate meaning.
A beautifully-incandescent read, deeply poignant and a rare literary treat, this book unquetsionably earns a place as one of the year’s current favorites for this reader.
A great big thank you to #NetGalley, the author and the publisher for an ARC of this book. All thoughts presented are my own.