Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Book Review: Teatime for the Firefly

Teatime for the Firefly
Author: Shona Patel
Publication: Harlequin MIRA, September 24, 2013


My name is Layla and I was born under an unlucky star. For a young girl growing up in India, this is bad news. But everything began to change for me one spring day in 1943, when three unconnected incidents, like tiny droplets on a lily leaf, tipped and rolled into one. It was that tiny shift in the cosmos, I believe, that tipped us together-me and Manik Deb.
Layla Roy has defied the fates. Despite being born under an inauspicious horoscope, she is raised to be educated and independent minded by her eccentric Anglophile grandfather, Dadamoshai. And, by cleverly manipulating the hand fortune has dealt her, she has even found love with Manik Deb-a man betrothed to another. All were minor miracles in India that spring of 1943, when young women's lives were predetermined-if not by the stars, then by centuries of family tradition and social order.
Layla's life as a newly married woman takes her away from home and into the jungles of Assam, where the world's finest tea thrives on plantations run by native labor and British efficiency. Fascinated by this curious culture of whiskey-soaked expat adventurers who seem fazed by neither earthquakes nor man-eating leopards, she struggles to find her place among the prickly English wives with whom she is expected to socialize, and the peculiar servants she now finds under her charge.
But navigating the hazards of tea-garden society will hardly be her biggest challenge. For even Layla's remote home is not safe from the incendiary change sweeping India on the heels of the Second World War. Their colonial world is at a tipping point as tectonic political shifts rock the tea industry, and Layla and Manik find themselves caught in a perilous racial divide that threatens their very lives.


Note: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. 

Yet another review I am feeling conflicted about writing... So I will keep this one short and sweet.

I wish I had all the time in the world to REALLY sit down and enjoy taking the journey through reading this novel. It is beautifully written, transporting the reader to another time and place: the tea-gardens of Imperial India. Layla is a heroine I could truly feel and empathize with. I was rooting for her despite her "luck". She is smart, intuitive, kind, and wise beyond her years and social status.

My love affair with this book was quickly overshadowed, however, by my frustration at its sudden slow pace at about 1/4 of the way through. Having to read it within a reasonable amount of time for preparing a review (as opposed to over the course of a month's leisure), and as a busy working mom I just could not give this lovely novel the time and nurturing that it truly needed.

Despite all that, I do recommend taking the time to read this book if its premise interests you. It is a charming and whimsical treat if you have the time to give it the attention it deserves. Hopefully one day I will have the opportunity to revisit this story and really enjoy it at its own pace.

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