Nasrin and Sabrina are two sisters, who on the face of things live successful and enviable lives in London and New York. When their father, Shamsur suddenly dies, they rush to be with their mother at the family home and restaurant in Wales, and reluctantly step back into the stifling world of their childhood.
When Shamsur’s will is read, a devastating secret is revealed that challenges all that people thought and loved about him. It also profoundly changes the lives and identities of the sisters, and creates an irreparable family rift…
Moving between London, Wales, New York and Bangladesh, this is an epic family drama that spans over four decades. A story of mothers and daughters, of fathers and daughters, of sisterhood, it is a tale that explores belonging, family and what makes forgiveness and redemption possible.
My thoughts: firstly I want to talk about the striking and beautiful cover on this book, it really is lovely. And I know you should never judge a book by its cover but you can certainly admire it.
The story it contains is not an easy read, it starts with the death of the family patriarch, a man who loves his family and keeps all of its secrets, who protects and cares for his employees, who was well known and loved in the community and whose death, a sudden one, leaves a deep hole in the centre of everyone and everything.
The differing reactions to his death, and to the fallout of his will, make up the rest of the book. His daughters, niece and wife all have very different ways of dealing with things, Sabrina’s rage, Nasrin’s epilepsy returning, and revelations he leaves behind all have profound impacts. The business struggles – more than the food they serve, the Peacock was Shamsur, and without him customers don’t quite seem to be coming.
Afroz, his niece, has travelled from Bangladesh, leaving her husband and impossible mother-in-law behind. She tries to help, finding she enjoys working in the restaurant, enjoys being with the staff, who Shamsur treated like family. She struggles with her cousins, and looks after her aunt, whose grief is complicated by secrets left behind in both the past and Bangladesh.
In a way this reminded me of one of my favourite books – Nadeem Aslan’s Maps for Lost Lovers, with its intergenerational secrets and pain, the foreign born younger generation having to unpack the things their immigrant parents prefer to keep hidden, not always understanding the mess of culture, religion and society that wrap around certain people and events. Seeing their parents’ homeland as backward and even ridiculous compared to the Western world they live in.
There are further tragedies, and more heartbreak to be reckoned with, the ripples of Shamsur’s will lingering long after his death. Nasrin’s illness and struggles in particular seem acute and complicated. Sabrina’s determination to push her ethnicity, her mother tongue, as far as possible away from her, to be ultra modern and keep up with the culture of her world of investments and trades threaten to unmoor her completely from her family. Afroz too needs time to decide what she really wants – the husband she didn’t choose and a life of unwilling servitude or this new one in the shadow of the Brecon Beacons, in her aunt and uncle’s footsteps.
Incredibly moving, powerful and engaging, this is a striking book both in looks and in contents.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.