Book Reviews

Book Review: A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev

I picked up A Bollywood Affair in the middle of the week. It had been a long day and I was trying to get through cooking dinner. I downloaded the audio book and was instantly hooked. Over the next few days, I listened while folding laundry, running errands and unloading the dishwasher. Let’s just say the house was in perfect order by the time I finished this book.

Here’s the publisher’s synopsis:

Mili Rathod hasn’t seen her husband in twenty years—not since she was promised to him at the age of four. Yet marriage has allowed Mili a freedom rarely given to girls in her village. Her grandmother has even allowed her to leave India and study in America for eight months, all to make her the perfect modern wife. Which is exactly what Mili longs to be—if her husband would just come and claim her.

Bollywood’s favorite director, Samir Rathod, has come to Michigan to secure a divorce for his older brother. Persuading a naïve village girl to sign the papers should be easy for someone with Samir’s tabloid-famous charm. But Mili is neither a fool nor a gold-digger. Open-hearted yet complex, she’s trying to reconcile her independence with cherished traditions. And before he can stop himself, Samir is immersed in Mili’s life—cooking her dal and rotis, escorting her to her roommate’s elaborate Indian wedding, and wondering where his loyalties and happiness lie.

Heartfelt, witty, and thoroughly engaging, Sonali Dev’s debut is both a vivid exploration of modern India and a deeply honest story of love, in all its diversity.

I was pleasantly surprised that this story was as much Mili’s as it was Samir’s. The alternating points of view take us closer to their joys and fears and reveal their biggest struggles – coming to terms with their complicated pasts.

Both Mili and Samir are complex characters – Mili is grounded and honors tradition yet she’s willing to veer from it to follow her heart. Samir is a playboy who works in the glitzy world of Bollywood and yet he can do the right thing, even if it’s not in his best interest.

Although the book tackles the larger themes of child marriage and abandonment, it also has the fuss and frolic of the Big Bollywood Wedding (complete with tsk-tsking aunties and elaborate banquets) and Bollywood scandal (a trouble-making ex-girlfriend). It’s this balance of sugar and spice that make it an interesting read.

Perhaps, the biggest joy for me is the writing. It’s light and airy where it needs to be and dives to the depths of the characters’ emotions at major turning points. And, it held up right through to the last page.

If you’re looking for a fun, well-written Bollywood-style romance, I highly recommend A Bollywood Affair. I can’t wait to read Sonali Dev’s next book, The Bollywood Bride.

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