Today I am sharing my thoughts on The Arctic Curry Club, the debut novel by Dani Redd. I’m not quite sure what I was expecting when I started this book, but it’s safe to say it is a long way from the kind of chick-lit read the cover might suggest. My thanks to publishers. Avon who sent me an advance copy of the book for review. I also purchase the audiobook, so part read and part listened to the book. Here’s what it’s all about:
About the Book
‘For my whole life I had been looking for home. But why would that be in a place that I’d left? Perhaps I had to keep moving forward in order to find it…’
Soon after upending her life to accompany her boyfriend Ryan to the Arctic, Maya realises it’s not all Northern Lights and husky sleigh rides. Instead, she’s facing sub-zero temperatures, 24-hour darkness, crippling anxiety – and a distant boyfriend as a result.
In her loneliest moment, Maya opens her late mother’s recipe book and cooks Indian food for the first time. Through this, her confidence unexpectedly grows – she makes friends, secures a job as a chef, and life in the Arctic no longer freezes her with fear.
But there’s a cost: the aromatic cuisine rekindles memories of her enigmatic mother and her childhood in Bangalore. Can Maya face the past and forge a future for herself in this new town? After all, there’s now high demand for a Curry Club in the Arctic, and just one person with the know-how to run it…
A tender and uplifting story about family, community, and finding where you truly belong – guaranteed to warm your heart despite the icy setting!
Now … I feel I should qualify my earlier comments about this not being the chick-lit kind of read that you might be expecting. I don’t mean anything bad by that – some of my favourite reads have been from the rom-com/chick-lit genre and I love the occasional mosey on into the world of the ‘pastels’ as I call it. The feel good, heartwarming, boy meets girl or girl meets boy stories that you might typically associate with this particular cover. And I love this cover. It suits the book. I just mean that if you came here expecting girl to meet boy (she does) and for them all to live happily ever after (they seem to, after a fashion) it’s not going to be the traditional kind of story that you find yourself reading. In fact, the book goes well beyond girl meets boy as girl actually follows boy north to a remote posting in Svalbard – effectively relocating to the Arctic, hence the name of the book. How’s about that for commitment? But as you’d expect with that kind of commitment, that level of sacrifice, not everything is set to go smoothly. That’s certainly not the case for Dani Redd’s protagonist, Maya, who finds life in a country that suffers from the most extreme winters coupled with near perpetual darkness isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Her partner loves it, Maya less so …
This book takes us beyond the romance, or lack thereof, and the mere geography of Svalbard, and invites us into the life of Maya, a young woman who is far more troubled and uncertain than the act of willingly uprooting her life might suggest. There were times in the early part of the book that I just wanted to shake her and shout ‘what did you expect’ but then the more I got to know of her, the more I understood what was driving her decisions and her uncertainty. I could definitely appreciate the struggle with the constant darkness and cold because I get fed up of having only eight hours of daylight in the winter. Imagine the thought of having effectively none. The toll that will take. Combine it with a troubled personal relationship – two people who look set to be on very different paths – and the scene is set for a story which is far more a voyage of discovery for Maya’s in terms of her own hopes and dreams than it is a romantic story. In fact, most of it is anything but romantic no matter what visions you might have of dog sledding and log fires.
I love the way in which the author has explored all of Maya’s many complicated relationships, from her boyfriend, to her father, from old friends from a lifetime ago, through to new friends made in Svalbard. It is a complex and multi-layered story that is packed with emotion and delves into some very challenging and complex subjects, such as mental health, in a very sensitive way. Watching Maya trying to regain her childhood memories, snippets of another life in which she is still with her mother, times when she can remember being happy, come as bittersweet scenes in the book. Her memories are triggered by a fragrance, a taste, and each one tears away another protective layer leaving a mixture of joy and, occasionally pain. There are many secrets to be uncovered, many dark moments that stem from far beyond the constant night of the Arctic in winter. It is a story that will toy with all your senses and running through the highs and lows of Maya’s journey really brought forth a gamut of emotions.
It also made me very hungry. As the title would suggest, this book involves food. In fact it is often food that facilitates the more emotional memories and scenes in the book. Discovering traditional Indian recipes that used to be made by her mother, and bringing to them a cleverly arctic twist, Maya attempts to set up a remote ‘curry club’ a chance to build revenue for her employers, but also a chance to connect to the mother she can barely remember. It made me very hungry, curry being one of my favourite foods. I’m not sure some of the Svalbard ingredient substitutes would entirely be up my street, but I’m definitely curious about the recipes, and rather handily, you can pick one of them up with the. audiobook at the very least. Speaking of the audiobook, I really enjoyed the pacing and the narration, bringing Maya’s neurosis, depression and moments of discovery to life.
An emotional story of family, friendships, dark secrets, new beginnings and with a true sense of community wrapped in the need to belong, this is a beautiful story that kept my attention to the very last page. Did Maya get her man? Well, she’s not a Mountie so nothing was guaranteed, but in the end, romance aside, I think she found something far more important and I found a new and intriguing author I’m looking forward to reading more from.
About the Author
Dani Redd has an MA in Creative Writing and a PhD in Creative and Critical writing from the University of East Anglia. She studied representations of islands in postcolonial and feminist fiction.
Upon finishing her PhD, Dani spent two years living in India and working as a freelance travel writer. She has now returned to Norwich, and works as the editor for Great British Food (a wonderful job that allows her to read recipes all day).