I was lucky enough to attend a meeting of one of Gabriola Island’s many book clubs called The Random Reads. I have been in various book clubs over the years but this is the first group that allows you to read and discuss whatever book you like.
It was my first time at this sort of meeting so I wasn’t entirely sure the protocol. Seven people sat in a tiny living room and took turns sitting on the bed in the middle of the room when it was our turn to discuss our book choices.
I decided to talk about my recent find at the Gabriola Library stacks titled, Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows, by Balli Kaur Jaswal.
The small plastic blue thumb sticking out of the top of the book was an effective signal from the library staff that it was a recommended read. I’ll admit that what really drew me to the book was the intriguing title.
After reading this saucy book I had to laugh at the back jacket’s claim that it is a page-turner your commute will thank you for. I would not advise anyone to read erotic stories on a commuter train! Glamour UK also notes that this book tackles serious themes with a light and funny touch. This is the whole book in a nutshell.
Set in Southall London the story unfolds at a local writing class where the main character Nikki is hired to teach English and grammar skills to Punjabi widows. Nikki is a young woman searching to find her place in the world caught between the pulls of her traditional Sikh family and growing up in modern London culture. It spirals into a class of sharing erotic stories and the many adventures that ensue.
This book gives a voice to women in a world where people ” Take no notice of those widows. Without their husbands, they’re irrelevant.”
Here is an excerpt from one of the erotic stories written by a woman who is trying to choose between two scrawny suitors over tea.
“It was already too far-fetched. This bony, awkward boy would never have the strength to lift Sunita onto the bed. His fingers would be stiff as sticks and he would jab them into her- she knew this from the feverish, impatient way he dipped his biscuit into his tea. He wouldn’t know the last thing about fondling a woman either. He would pinch and twist as if tuning a radio.”
After the character, Kulwinder read one of the erotic stories she found she could reconnect with her husband again.” She even dared to think that it was worth living the rest of her life for, this closeness with another human being.”
This story is brimming with unique characters such as Steve with the Racist Grandfather and Tarampal a young widow who blackmails people for money to keep their secrets.
My main complaint is that there were a few too many things going on in this book. The main character was dealing with the loss of a parent while searching for true love. There was also the quest for women’s rights, the pros and cons of arranged marriages, the subject of mourning the loss of a child, abusive parents and the effect of extremist groups on a community.
Besides these shortcomings, this book is still worth a read. It will transport you to another world; to a group of women from Southall London and their exotic saucy stories.
I don’t believe there is another book like this anywhere.