Saturday, 5 November 2016

Book Review: Queen of Dreams by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni.

Book: Queen of Dreams

Author: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (CBD)

Pages: 302

Read On: Paperback

How Long it Took Me To Read: 10 days...with a lot of breaks and book read in between and Diwali!

Plot Summary: From the bestselling author of Sister of My Heart comes a spellbinding tale of mothers and daughters, love and cultural identity. Rakhi, a young painter and single mother, is struggling to come to terms with her relationship with ex-husband Sonny, a hip Bay Area DJ, and with her dream-teller mother, who has rarely spoken about her past or her native India. Rakhi has her hands full, juggling a creative dry spell, raising her daughter, and trying to save the Berkeley teahouse she and her best friend Belle own. But greater challenges are to come. When a national tragedy turns her world upside down and Rakhi needs her mother’s strength and wisdom more than ever, she loses her in a freak car accident. But uncovering her mother’s dream journals allows Rakhi to discover her mother’s long-kept secrets and sacrifices–and ultimately to confront her fears, forge a new relationship with her father, and revisit Sonny’s place in her heart. 

General Thoughts: I adore CBD's work. Her books are always soothing and comforting to me. I love the world she writes about and the people in her books. I've read most of her books and enjoyed most of these said books. This one and Mistress of Spice are the only ones I haven't read so far.

Normally, I tend to breeze through Indian books and especially CBDs books. But for some odd reason I took a long time to get through this book. It took me nearly 10 days to make my way to the end of this book. I read 3-4 other books while reading this and truth be told, I was struggling to enjoy this book in the beginning. The first 50 pages were a little tedious and I wasn't sinking into the story yet. But it definitely picked up as the book went on.

Things I Liked: 

1. The writing as usual was a delight and something I enjoyed immensely.

2. The world of dream interpretations and dream-telling was so intriguing and interesting. I have always had an interest in dream interpretation and even own a Dream Dictionary--which is so fun, by the way. This aspect of the book really drew me in.

3. There is a little bit of mystery in this book, about Rakhi's mother's past and why she seems a little aloof. A strangeness about her and her dealings with her dreams and dreamers.

4. Rakhi and Sonny's relationship, both in the past and in it's current broken down state were
shown so well and came across as so real and human.

5. Rakhi's father who in the first half of the book seemed as interesting as wallpaper and was for most part a quiet and unremarkable character comes alive in the second half of the book. It took me by surprise at how wonderful and warm he was and all his stories were hands down my favourite part of this book. His back story and his life in India were parts where CBD's talent in writing and crafting stories comes through.

6. Belle and Rakhi's friendship was also an aspect of the book I enjoyed. They are so supportive and kind and picked each other up an showed up when the other needed them.

7. The magical realism in this book is well for the lack of a better term...pretty magical and wonderful and so subtle, so it doesn't feel overwhelming or too out there.

8. Interspersed through regular chapter there are entries from The Dream Journal, which talks of omens and what dreams mean and then later on these entries become about her ( Rakhi's mother's) past and her learning from Dream instructors. In the second half these journals give a lot of answers and insights into Rakhi's mother's past.

9. The Chai House, owned by Belle and Rakhi and later as Rakhi's father joins in and helps was one of my absolute favourite bits to read about. It is these parts of the book that feel like typical and vintage CBD and this is what I loved best.

10.  The food in the book was such a joy to read about and God! it made me crave some Bengali food. And Chai. I wanted to get a big cup of fragrant tea and eat a big plate of singharas and gawja. Ah! :)

Things I Didn't Like:

1. The first half of book was really boring and I honestly wanted to stop at page 54. It was sheer determination an my usual love for CBD that made me get through this book.

2. I didn't like Rakhi. I didn't like her at all. Her headspace was a sad, confused and angry place and I didn't like being there at all.

3. Even Rakhi's kid was annoying and not likeable at all. Normally kids in books are fun to read about but this kids- Jonaki was just meh.

4. There was so much vagueness in this book. After a point if felt like I was reading through  haze and this was not pleasurable in the least.

5. Even in the end there was so much that was left unanswered and untold and unclear. We never really get all the answers and are left with so much unsaid.

6. A huge portion of the book, in the second half especially, was focussed on getting Belle and Rakhi's Chai shop back on track. Everyone pitched in to save the shop..and I really enjoyed reading about this, but in the end we aren't told if it worked out or not, especially after some 9/11 related unpleasantness strikes the business. I wish we knew..but the book doesn't give us any answers.

Rating: 3.5/5

Overall, by the end I did enjoy this book but it wasn't my favourite CBD book by a mile. But it had it's moments and it was nice.

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