Reading Reviews

Book review: The Forgotten Daughter by Renita D’Silva


I chose this book from the Om Bookshop in Phoenix Mall, Mumbai, because after visiting India twice recently I’m keen to discover lesser-known contemporary novelists writing about the country.

The story starts with Nisha, a young British-Indian woman, shortly after her parents’ unexpected death. She has always lived in England and feels no connection to India, never having visited – as far as she knew. But the discovery that she was adopted from a Catholic convent near Mangalore sends her on a journey, both physical and emotional, to find out more about her early childhood.

There are three main characters – Nisha, Shilpa and Devi – and we gradually find out how they are connected as we follow Nisha in her efforts to find her biological parents.

After such a short time in India I’m still not fully au fait with koilolis, idlis or chicken sukka, but I can certainly appreciate D’Silva’s rich, multi-sensual picture of life in a small Indian village. She uses food, colours and aromas to paint vivid images in the mind’s eye with great skill. She also does an excellent job of showing us three key characters with quite different personalities. They all face challenges relating to love and relationships; they all have experiences of motherhood to convey from the perspective of mother, daughter or both.

Sometimes Nisha’s lines of dialogue can seem a little stilted – which British person would say “It would have been different had they been writing a scientific paper” instead of “… if they’d been writing a scientific paper”, for example, and who talks out loud about “The vivid smells which accost my nose”? – but those few moments are quickly forgotten in the sweep of the story.

D’Silva brings all the threads together with perfect timing, keeping the reader guessing for just long enough before showing us how the next piece of the puzzle fits in. The plot never gets confusing yet it’s not too predictable either. My only criticism is that the ending doesn’t quite work for me – it seems a little too symmetrical, if I was going to be very fussy – but I strongly suspect that might just be a personal thing!

My verdict: if you want a taste of India, either as a reminder or a new experience, you can’t do much better than this. Don’t be put off if you’re not into ‘motherhood’ as a theme. This book is about love, loss, difficult decisions, personal growth and what people are capable of – themes that can resonate with anyone. Four stars out of five.

4 stars

Authors Christmas Help For Writers Personal

Happy New Year: 2016

Happy New Year! I hope 2016 is a great year for you.

I’m really excited about 2016. There are going to be fantastic new developments at Help For Writers! In the next few days I’ll finally be in a position to reveal all. (Sorry for the vagueblogging in the meantime, but I couldn’t wait to greet the New Year anyway!)

If, as a writer, there are any services you’d like to see that you haven’t been able to locate anywhere, or some way that existing self-publishing services aren’t fully meeting your needs, please drop me a line because I’d love to hear about ways we might be able to help make your life easier.

On a personal note, I’ve been in India for the last three weeks. As per all good cybersecurity advice I decided not to broadcast my absence on my blog in case hordes of rampaging looters descended on my house to strip it bare. (I needn’t have worried.) I spent a few days in Mumbai, then five days touring the Golden Triangle (Delhi, Agra, Ranthambore, Jaipur and back to Delhi again) and finally a week soaking up the sun in Kerala. This was my holiday of a lifetime and I feel extremely lucky to have seen some wonderful sights and met a bunch of super-friendly people. I didn’t take many photos but here’s a gratuitous Taj Mahal shot.

Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal