Title: The Pleasure Seekers
Author: Tishani Doshi
Release Date: August 31, 2010
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Genre: Literary Fiction, Multicultural Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
It’s 1968, and Babo Patel has decided to leave his home city of Madras for London. He soon sheds the hallmarks of his Jain heritage, choosing to eat meat and drink alcohol, and generally becomes Westernized. He meets Sian, a Welsh woman, and falls hopelessly in love with her. When Babo’s parents hear of this, they immediately summon Babo back home. Eventually they reconcile to the idea of a Welsh daughter-in-law, with the caveat that Babo and Sian must live in Madras for two years after their marriage.
I’m always looking for new South Asian literature, so when I saw The Pleasure Seekers in Bloomsbury USA’s catalog, my curiosity was immediately piqued. Then I saw the endorsement quote on the cover – a blurb from Salman Rushdie. I didn’t even need to know what it was about. The South Asian setting and Salman Rushdie, my favorite author, were enough for me.
I was completely mesmerized by Tishani Doshi’s ability to manipulate language. This book was beautifully written. I can’t tell you how many passages I marked, hoping to share with you in my review, in the end deciding I couldn’t choose among them. Doshi’s descriptions are lush and beautiful. Whether she’s discussing a place, a person, or an emotion, she has the ability to convey so much through her prose. The reader can feel the emotions pulsing through her words. It’s an incredible talent, and as a result, The Pleasure Seekers is worth reading simply for the sheer beauty of Tishani Doshi’s writing.
A common theme running through The Pleasure Seekers is being away from your own country, in a foreign country with alien people and cultures. Doshi captures these feelings wonderfully, really showing the reader how strange the entire experience is. Even if you have never traveled to or lived in a foreign country, Doshi can make you understand the bereft excitement, those dueling forces that make you feel lost and found at the same time. The quote below describes Sian in Madras as she writes a letter home to her family.
“I’m always a beginner here,” she wrote, trying to get to the heart of the melancholy that had set in ever since they’d taken up residence in Sylvan Lodge. “I am always beginning because I cannot surrender a part of myself. It’s difficult to explain. Everyone has been more than generous, more than patient, and yet, it’s a feeling of being marooned, of not having quite reached my final destination.”
The Pleasure Seekers was a wonderfully written look at one family over decades, through tumultuous events in Indian history. Though the plot does meander a bit towards the middle of the book, Doshi’s beautiful prose is a constant that ties the book together. This is Doshi’s first novel, though she has published a collection of poetry called Countries of the Body. Though I don’t usually read poetry, I’ll be seeking it out just because I cannot get enough of Doshi’s gorgeous writing.