Top critical review
I could put it down, until I could not
Reviewed in the United States on February 21, 2018
Bali Kaur Jaswal’ s Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows is mostly what it says it is. Which is to say this is not for the youngsters. The Erotic stories, and there are a few, are titillating but not particularly explicit. If you do not like reading about mostly conventional fantasies, the title of the book should be sufficient warning.
Ms. Jaswal has attempted a number of story lines. In no particular order:
A young woman seeking to balance between her culture, her traditional family and her modern ideas.
Eastern, specifically Punjabi culture meets Western, specifically British.
The suppression of women, specifically older, women in the Punjabi culture.
These same women finding an outlet or at least an expression for their sexuality
One or more mysterious deaths.
And these are only the major story lines. Something of a crowded field for a 298 page novel.
Initially I had expected a fairly balances discussion of traditional values versus modern values, but every chapter or so a new story line opened. This creates a lot to think about but not so much in the way of answers.
The erotic stories are scattered about and are the result of the Punjabi Widows hijacking an English Language course that was to be taught by Nikki, a modern Punjabi woman, law school dropout seeking her purpose while maintain her links to her mother and dealing with the recent death of her father, who may have died angry with Nikki and coming to terms with the traditions of her culture and looking for Mr. Right. Like I said a lot of story lines. O I forgot there are at least one suspicious death; actually two.
To her credit, Ms Jaswal does a good job describing Punjabi culture, its overly male orientation and the problems of living in or nearly in this community. I like a book that take the reader into a world previously unknown but from reality. Erotic Stories succeeds at this. Despite the overall shallow handling of the deeper themes in her novel, when the time comes to bring the threads together and bring about the climax (pun not exactly intended) she builds the tension and keeps the reader engaged and eager for the finish.
The denouement arrives in the form of several chapters, each designed to tie up all loose ends. With this many story lines, there are going to be loose ends. In this, a better editor would have guided the author to a shorter simpler wind up.