163: Sonali Dev's PRIDE, PREJUDICE, AND OTHER FLAVORS -- February 2021 Book Club
In this Unabridged Book Club episode, we are discussing Sonali Dev's Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors. This one was chosen by the Unabridged Ambassadors and is a perfect fit for two of our Unabridged Podcast Reading Challenge categories, a romance by an author of color and a retelling of a classic. This month, we are having a Book Club discussion on Instagram on February 15th. Just DM us on Instagram or comment here (with your IG handle) if you'd like to join us!
Ashley - Taylor Jenkins Reid’s The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
Jen - K. A. Tucker’s The Simple Wild
Sara - Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice
Ashley - Sandhya Menon’s 10 Things I Hate about Pinky
Jen - Uzma Jalaluddin’s Ayesha at Last
Other Mentions in Episode
Taylor Jenkins Reid’s One True Loves
Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Daisy Jones and the Six
Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Malibu Rising (coming out June 1, 2021)
Rachel DeLoache Williams's My Friend Anna: The True Story of a Fake Heiress
Ibi Zoboi’s Pride
Sandhya Menon's When Dimple Met Rishi
Give Me One - Classics that Are Very Readable
Listen in to hear our picks!
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Ashley said, 'So, I finally have come around to reading Taylor Jenkins Reid's The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. I borrowed this one from Jen a very long time ago, and it has been sitting on my shelf. And I've been waiting to get to it. So I read Daisy Jones and the Six right around this time last year. I feel like it was the winner of last year, and I listened to the audio. And I really enjoyed that. I really enjoyed it. I didn't feel quite the level of love that I felt like a lot of other people did in the sense that I thought it was a great story, and actually the farther I've been from it, the more things have stayed with me about it that I really appreciated. But I just feel like for some people that's like their number one favorite book. And like for me, It was great. It was not my most favorite book ever. But this one I'm really captivated by. So, I am thrilled that I finally got around to it. I've been looking forward to reading it and wanted to pick something up that I could just read for fun, and I'm really interested in the story.
"So you know going into it, it is about Evelyn Hugo, who is a renowned actress who has had a very long acting career. But she also, as the title suggests, had seven husbands, and she's kind of got a mythical level of status, and people are dying to know her story. Yet throughout her entire life that has not been revealed. You also have Monique who is a young journalist. She's really just trying to find her way and hasn't done a whole lot with her career yet. She has these really great ambitions, but she has had some setbacks in her personal life. Suddenly, it becomes clear that she is going to get paired up with Evelyn Hugo. So that is the premise, and I really love it. I think what I'm coming to see that what I appreciate about Taylor Jenkins Reid's stories is that I loved and (Daisy Jones as well) is the framing of the story. I think that is really fascinating. So, you have the person who is the teller of the story, and you're getting their story, which is really interesting, and then you're getting that inner story that's coming to light of the person who's the spotlight, like in this case, Evelyn Hugo, and I love all of that. I think it's really fascinating. I am really enjoying it so far, and I am happy to be coming around to it and have wanted to for a long time. I'd heard such great things and it is a joy to read. So again, that's Taylor Jenkins Reid. And this one is The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo."
Sara shared, "I am reading Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. After reading Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors, I really felt that I needed that kind of cultural touchstone because there are so many books that are based on this story. So I was like, I need to go to the source and read it. I knew there was no way that I would read the actual paper book because it just, I just knew it wouldn't keep my attention. So, Jen suggested looking for the audio. So I did, and I'm reading the audio, and Rosamund Pike reads the audio. If you don't know who she is, she the played the main character in the Gone Girl movie, but she's had lots of other roles, but that's where I knew her from. And she is fantastic. I am blown away by her narration, thankfully, and this story—though I'm being more facetious than I really mean—the story is fine. I just don't find it very compelling. I guess because I have read and seen other works that are based on the story, I feel like it's kind of a little boring. I don't hate it, and like I said, Rosamund Pike is so such a talented narrator that I like to listen to her read it, but I've read some really good books lately.
"I'm also simultaneously reading My Friend Anna that Jen recommended to me back in our Recommendations episode, and that is super compelling, and I want to know what's going to happen. So, in comparison to some of the other things I've read lately, it's fine, and I'm happy that I'm going to have that context going forward. But it's just, I just don't think that those traditional classics are my preference, but I am happy that I am expanding my horizons and giving them a go. I do think that I like the story. I like the love story. And It's been really fun listening to it after having read Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors. And I'm like, oh, Wickham. Oh, I know. Because I had no context for that when I was reading the story we're going to discuss today. So, I'm reading Jane Austen's (I'm not going summarize it, because everybody knows it.) I'm just going to say I'm reading Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice."
Jen said, "I am reading K. A. Tucker's The Simple Wild. This is definitely a bookstagram made me do it. This is a romance and I'm not very far into it. But I could not count the number of people who adore this book. I'm in a lot of different buddy reads with people, and this one comes up in romance buddy reads but also in non-romance buddy reads. I feel like I just see it everywhere. So, this is the story of Calla who was born in Alaska. And her mother when she was two made the decision—her mother was originally from Toronto, and she had moved to Alaska because she fell in love with Calla's dad. He owns a bunch of airplanes, and he has this aviation company. So he provides flights around Alaska to move supplies around and things and he has to live there. That is where he is committed to live. That is his livelihood. He loves it. Calla's mom, she feels very isolated. She feels as if she just does not fit in. She desperately wants to be around her family and friends again, she wants to move back to the city, and she leaves when Calla is two. So that happens at the very beginning.
"Flash forward 23 years later, Calla has never met her father. She lives in Toronto with her mother and her stepfather, and she goes to work one day and unexpectedly is fired because her job at the bank has become replaced by computers. She goes out with her best friend to sort of console herself and she sees her boyfriend with another girl, and then she gets home and someone who knows her dad calls and says that her dad has cancer and that she should come to Alaska to meet him before he dies, basically. So she has had a heck of a day and is feeling at loose ends and decides that, yeah, she is going to go to Alaska and meet her dad. So she does. Oof course there is a really hunky pilot who picks her up, and he is really grumpy. She hates him at first sight, and she calls him the Yeti, and you can guess what's going to happen, but so far, it's really it's really fun. I like her personality. I think it's the whole enemies to lovers trope, of which I am a fan. So yeah, it's really compelling so far."
Main Discussion—Sonali Dev's Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors
Sara, Ashley, and Jen's Overall Thoughts On the Novel
Sara said, "I really enjoyed this book. I love books that have main characters who are chefs and that talk about food. I've been on record about that before, and Indian food is like my favorite cuisine. So, when Trisha is salivating over D.J.'s food and all of that, I always here for all of it because the descriptions of food—it's just that when I was reading it every single time I picked it up, I was like I'm really feeling Indian food tonight for dinner. Because it was just the descriptions were so vibrant, and I just really liked the story. We were speaking a little bit before we started recording, and I liked the how rich the narrative was. I don't think it seemed like a typical romance book, even though I think it's classified as romance. I just found this story really compelling. I really loved the story of Trisha's family and learning about them and all of the different family members and what they brought to the table and how they kind of almost patchwork a family together based on necessity. I just really liked all that. So all of that worked for me. So I really liked this one. I'm really, really happy that I got to read it and I listened to the audio and that was great."
Ashley shared, "I loved this one. I agree with Sara that it was not as romance-like as I thought it might be going in. I really appreciated that. I mean, I've said recently in episodes that I am reading much more romance than I was a year ago, and that's been a nice discovery for me. But I think what I loved about this one was the richness of the narrative of each of their jobs. So I think all of that about their jobs and her as a female doctor—a leading doctor in her field and how she has worked for where she is. I thought all of that was really great. And I also liked the intersection of everything with Emma, his sister, and how she was the one who could care for her. So yeah, I really enjoyed it. I did audio and read this one. I don't do that a whole lot. And I was glad to try it out. It was a good one. I learned some things about doing it. And it was good. Like I learned this one is marked by chapters that have numbers. And since I don't have WhisperSync, I can see why that's desirable, because again, I don't usually get back and forth. But it was nice, because with the chapter numbers, it was easy to do both. I really liked both versions. So yeah, I really enjoyed it. That was a great story."
Jen said, "Yeah, I really loved it. This was a reread for me. So I should have talked about this at the beginning. Sorry. So our Unabridged Ambassadors actually chose this book. We put together a list of romance books that we thought would be great picks. This is also one of the categories for the Unabridged Reading Challenge this year: this is a romance by an author of color. So, we had a whole bunch of options, and we let our Unabridged Ambassadors choose. I was thrilled to reread this one because I absolutely loved it the first time through, I think—I'll talk a little more in "What Worked for Us" about the echoes of Pride and Prejudice that I liked—but yeah, I think everything you all have said, I think it has rich characters. I love the way we see the backstory of Trisha's parents develop and then her relationship with her siblings, I think is great. I think the secondary characters' relationships are compelling and do a nice job sort of reinforcing Trisha's own goals. I think DJ is a great character. I think both of them—I had points that I was really frustrated with them—but I also think that you're supposed to feel frustrated with them, because I think both of them make mistakes. And I love books that are about redemption and admitting when you're wrong and apologizing when you do something to hurt somebody else. So yeah, I just think the themes are great, the characters are great. And yeah, I love a good Pride and Prejudice retelling. So all the things work for me.
Ashley said this about her pairing, "One that came to mind for me right away was Sandhya Menon's When Dimple Met Rishi. And so I wanted to choose another of hers. This is 10 Things I Hate About Pinky. This is the third book in the Dimple-verse books. And so I was absolutely entranced by When Dimple Met Rishi. It's one of my favorite romances that I've read, so I was interested in reading more. I still haven't read book two. But we were fortunate to get a copy of 10 Things I Hate About Pinky, which is the third. This is about . . . there's just a lot of similarities in the sense that it's Pinky and Samir, and they are total opposites and kind of get forced together in circumstances outside of both of their control. They do not want to spend time together. So, there's a lot of similarities as far as that goes, so basically, it's that Pinky and her family are at a beach house for the summer. They're getting ready to go to college, and so her family is there for the summer. Samir is supposed to go at the beginning of the summer. They have the same friend group, but they do not get along. They do not like each other very much, but—as I'm sure we can all relate to, especially from younger friend groups when we were in high school—that they travel in the same circles even though they do not like each other. So they both know this. So Samir is supposed to have this internship, and it falls through after he gets there. He has taken the plane, he's gone to do it, and he has always had this close relationship with his mom. But she's also very protective. They've had some tragedy in their family, and because of that, she's really protective. He's very protective of her, they have a very close relationship. So once he finally makes it to the place for the internship, that was a big step for him. When he gets there and that falls through, he suddenly realizes that he's not ready to turn around and get on the plane back home. Because of that, things evolve, and he winds up going to the beach house with Pinky's family because of a mutual friend who's kind of helped them arrange this and so, hijinks ensue."
Sara said this, "So, I'm going to go with Kevin Kwan's Crazy Rich Asians. We actually did an episode on this book: we both read it and watched the film back in the old days when we could go to the theater together. That is Episode 40. This book is about Rachel Chu. She lives in New York, and she has a boyfriend who she loves. His name is Nick Young. And they have been together and they have a really lovely relationship. And so it comes to pass that Nick has to go home to Singapore for the wedding of his best friend to be the best man, and he invites Rachel to go with him. He has never told her that he comes from astronomical wealth, basically. So she agrees to go with him, and she is envisioning going home to this like nice cozy little place and meeting his family. But things soon become apparent when they're in on the airplane, and they have like beds to lay in rather than a, you know, a seat, and things go from there. She meets his family, and it becomes clear that she doesn't have what his family thinks is the appropriate pedigree to be able to marry him or be even be with him. So then it is just kind of that narrative through the whole book and the decadence and Rachel in it coming to terms with the relationship. I just thought when I was reading this, and Trisha's family kind of reminded me of the Young family. I thought that there were some expectations placed upon the kids about what they're going to do and who you're going to associate with. And I just thought that that was a connection that I saw with Crazy Rich Asians. So that is Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan."
Jen said this, "I am doing another Pride and Prejudice retelling, so if you get tired of them, you may want to give yourself a little time before you pick this one up. But this is Uzma Jalaluddin's Ayesha at Last. When I was saying earlier that I think the brilliant thing about good Pride and Prejudice retellings is the way that structure can be placed on new problems, that definitely happens in Ayesha At Last. So in this one is also set in an Indian community, but it's focused on the fact that the community is Muslim. Ayesha is getting to the age where people expect her to have been married, and her family is considering arranging a marriage for her. One of the men to whom they would like her to become married is Khalid. He is an extremely conservative Muslim. He has a full beard, he dresses in a very conservative way, and Ayesha does not: she dresses much more in a modern way and does not feel as compelled to dress in that way. So, that's one disparity between them.
"As they move around in the community, you see the way that Khalid garners really racist and prejudiced reactions because of the way that he chooses to dress. They have a lot of conversations about why he has made the choice to dress that way, why he doesn't choose to dress in a way that would help him fit in more. He also has a very conservative sort of relationship with his mother, and his mother is super protective of him, and this is where you sort of get that snobbiness that we see in Pride and Prejudice. His mother does not feel that Ayesha is worthy of her son. So you get a lot of those same conflicts. Again, I just think you take this structure, you take this conflict, but you place it on a different kind of division. I think it works really well, and it just illuminates a lot of assumptions that we make about why people choose to worship in the way that they do, or why people choose to live in the way that they do and how others feel as if they have the right to judge that and to question why it's that important. Why, you know, why is it not just easier to go along with the way everybody else does things? And I think the fact that Ayesha is asking some of these questions in the narrative really helps to explore them well, Uzma Jalaluddin's Ayesha At Last."
Find out more about our discussion and found out our Give Me One topic and answers when you listen to the whole episode!
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