By Louise Brown
Published by Headline (21 April 2016)
Eden Gardens, Calcutta, the 1940s. In a ramshackle house, streets away from the grand colonial mansions of the British, live Maisy, her Mam and their ayah, Pushpa.
Whiskey-fuelled and poverty-stricken, Mam entertains officers in the night - a disgrace to British India. All hopes are on beautiful Maisy to restore their good fortune.
But Maisy's more at home in the city's forbidden alleyways, eating bazaar food and speaking Bengali with Pushpa, than dancing in glittering ballrooms with potential husbands.
Then one day Maisy's tutor falls ill. His son stands in. Poetic, handsome and ambitious for an independent India, Sunil Banerjee promises Maisy the world.
So begins a love affair that will cast her future, for better and for worse. Just as the Second World War strikes and the empire begins to crumble...
I read Eden Gardens over the summer. It was a great holiday read, especially in a hot setting that reminded me of the book's location. I was expecting romantic historical fiction (not something I read very often) and was very pleasantly surprised to discover that Eden Gardens was so much more than this.
Louise Brown's beautiful vivid writing transported me to 1940s Calcutta, where Maisy lived with her Mam and ayah Pushpa. Eden Gardens certainly provided me with an alternative view of the British in Calcutta, seeing beyond the wealth and romanticism of the era. Maisy and her mother live among the back streets - her mother has resorted to prostitution to ensure they have a home in India, rather than return to her roots in Leeds. The story is told through the eyes of Maisy and Pushpa over a number of decades.
Eden Gardens had an authentic feel to it. It's passionate and felt very real. It made me cry too!
I received an Advance Reader Copy.