Tag Archive > family

One World – One Great Big Family

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Leaving India: My Family's Journey from Five Villages to Five Continents By Minal Hajratwala“Indian diaspora” is one of those phrases that have become part of conversation these days. Most people mouth the phrase without thinking too much of it – yes, yes, it covers UK, New Jersey, somewhere else in America, Canada. And then the conversation trails off in vagueness. The reality of the far flung Indian diaspora does not become apparent until you get hold of a book like Minal Hajratwala’s. Her extended family consists of 36 first cousins strung out across the globe between Fiji, England and South Africa, literally five continents when you sit down to analyse them.

What she does is follow her ancestors on a very personal journey. One that started from Navsari in Gujarat in 1834, just after slavery was outlawed in the British colonies and replaced by another form of servitude, indentured labour.

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Family Planning

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Introducing the Ahujas

Family Planning By Karan MahajanIt is a truth universally acknowledged, that a 16-year old with a crush on a girl on the school bus, must be in want of a less embarrassing family.

In the case of Arjun, his family is so personally embarrassing to him that not even his best friends know that in addition to the 6 siblings he admits to (the ones he can’t deny since they go to his school) there are another 6 making up the total brood at home. As if that wasn’t embarrassing enough, his mother’s about to add another to the collection. Arjun’s father Rakesh Ahuja is a politician – the Minister for Urban Development – and he has two great passions; his lust for pregnant women which leads him to keep his wife almost permanently in a state of pregnancy and lactation and his determination to improve the city infrastructure for which he is responsible by building lots of flyovers.

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Second Honeymoon

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Second Honeymoon By Joanna TrollopeSecond Honeymoon‘ is Joanna Trollope’s thirteenth novel, and like all of the others is a really good read. In my view, Joanne Trollope is a very good observer of people and their relationships, and this is at the centre of all her books. None are action packed adventure stories but all give good insights into other people’s lives. She deals with quite complex issues that affect families like divorce and second marriages and affairs. In ‘Second Honeymoon‘ she examines what happens to a family when all the children grow up and leave!

At the centre of the novel are Edie and Russell. For almost all of their married life together they have been bringing up their three children – Matthew, Rosa and Ben. Now, finally, their youngest has left to move in with his girlfriend, and for the first time in the best part of thirty years they are living just as a couple again.

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My Sister’s Keeper

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My Sister's Keeper By Jodi PicoultIf you have not read this amazing book by Jodi Picoult then I thoroughly recommend it. But be prepared, it is not always easy reading, and will take you on a roller coaster of emotions by the time you reach the end!

My Sister’s Keeper‘ centres on a 13 year old girl called Anna. Anna would never have been born if it were not for the fact that her elder sister Kate was diagnosed with leukaemia. At the age of two she desperately needs a bone marrow transplant, but no one in the family is a match and it is extremely likely that a suitable donor will be found elsewhere.

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The Three Day Rule

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The Three Day Rule By Emlyn Rees, By Josie LloydI have to start this review by saying that I enjoyed this book so much I could hardly put it down which with two small children is no mean feat! ‘The Three Day Rule‘ is written by the very successful writing team of husband and wife Emlyn Rees and Josie Lloyd. This is the sixth book they have written together (I have read them all) and they just seem to get better.

This book covers one Christmas period enjoyed (or endured) by the Thorne family. All the family members have come together at their father’s home on the small island of Braynor to enjoy the festivities together. Elder son Elliot says that they can only be together for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day because of the three day rule – which is how long any family can endure each other before returning to normality! I think there are times when I can relate to that rule!

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Love me, Love my Entire Extended Family

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Home by Manju KapurIn a past job I used to visit India several times a year for work and I got to know some of my local colleagues quite well. We understood each other on most things but there was a colossal culture gap in one area of our lives; our views and experience of marriage and family were totally alien to each other. We could talk for days but for me to get my head around the idea of arranged marriage and living in an extended family was every bit as difficult as them trying to understand how I could have married someone my parents didn’t know or approve of and then live a life pretty much separated from both our families. As for my husband and I not wanting children, that was just too much for anyone to get their heads round. I couldn’t understand the very Indian concept that you marry a stranger and ‘love will come’ and I struggled to see past my Western ideas of romance and passion.

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Tyler Gets Dug In

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Digging to America By Anne TylerLife is full of happy accidents and meetings that develop into more than could ever have been anticipated. There are people you meet completely randomly who go on to become important in your life in unpredictable ways. Such is the case for two Baltimore couples and their extended families in Anne Tyler’s “Digging to America“. Both couples are childless and both have opted to adopt a girl child from Korea. Other than that they have little in common.

Bitsy and Brad Dickinson-Donaldson are a wholesome all-American couple. She’s into home weaving and wearing odd sack-cloth dresses made from fabric she’s woven herself. She has an opinion on anything and everything and no hang-ups about expressing those especially on the topic of childcare. You get the impression she’s read every book on bringing up baby ever written. Anxious to cling to her baby’s Korean roots, Bitsy doesn’t change her daughter’s name – she was and always (until the child says differently) will be Jin-Ho.

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A Tale of Survival and Friendship

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A Thousand Splendid Suns By Khaled HosseiniIf there were a library that organised its books by theme rather than alphabetically or by broad genre, the shelf labelled ‘Happy Books About Afghanistan’ would be one of the emptiest in the shop. A Thousand Splendid Suns would not be on that shelf since it’s almost unremittingly bleak. But by the standards of other books I’ve read about Afghanistan, it’s only scratching the surface.

The Main Characters

Mariam is the illegitimate daughter of Jalil, the cinema owner in the town of Hemat, a man with three official wives who still couldn’t resist dabbling with her mother.

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The Memory Keeper’s Daughter

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The Memory Keeper's Daughter By Kim EdwardsThe Memory Keeper’s Daughter” was not a book I had initially set out to read; my local bookshop was offering best-selling paperbacks on a “buy one, get one half price offer”, and after choosing the one I really did want to read, this was my choice for the half price book. I was swayed by the fact that it was written by an assistant Professor of English, Kim Edwards, and was suggested by the booksellers to be literary fiction. It was also billed as a multi-million copy US number 1 bestseller, and books don’t achieve that without an awful lot people thinking it was very good (or at least one hell of a marketing campaign behind it). It certainly looked worth a try.

The book opens in 1964, with newlywed couple David and Norah Henry expecting their first child in the small town of Lexington, Kentucky. When Norah goes into labour late one night in the middle of a freak snowstorm, David decides the safest course of action is to drive his wife to the local clinic where he is a doctor, rather than risk taking her further to the hospital in such bad weather.

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Ice in our drinks – whatever next!

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ethel_and_ernest_book_coverEthel and Ernest is a graphic novel by the celebrated author and illustrator Raymond Briggs of The Snowman and Fungus the Bogeyman fame and was first published in 1998. The book is a tribute to his working-class parents and tells the story of their lives from the first meeting in 1928 through to their deaths in the early seventies. This is an immensely warm, nostalgic and sometimes poignant journey through the decades and provides a fascinating part social history of Britain as Ethel and Ernest meet, marry, and raise their son Raymond as the world gradually changes ever more around them. Through the often mundane but sometimes extraordinary lives of Ethel and Ernest we experience the first stirrings and eventual turmoil of war, the creation of the welfare state, the advent of television, doodlebugs, the bomb, indoor bathrooms, fridges, telephones, the blitz, rationing, Conservative and Labour governments, men on the moon, VE Day, and much more besides. As the blurb on the inside cover goes, ‘this is the reality of two decent, ordinary lives, of two people who, as Briggs tells their story, become representative of us all’.

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