Publication Date: 9th December 2021
Publisher: Avon Books
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…
The title and cover art work of this book led me to believe that it would be a funny, light hearted read. However it turned out to be so much more.
After following her feckless boyfriend to Longyearbyn in the Arctic Circle, Maya Reed-Kaur finds herself lonely and out of her depth. She is well out of her comfort zone and this is causing her significant anxiety, a condition that she has suffered from for as long as she can remember. Determined to push those anxieties aside, Maya gets a job as a chef at a local wilderness centre. In the midst of her personal crisis, Maya finds herself travelling back to Bangalore in India for the first time since her early childhood. Born to an Indian mother and an English father, she’s spent years denying that side of her heritage yet never quite feeling like she fully fits into either culture, and now finds herself thrown back into a life that seems both foreign yet familiar. The visit inspires Maya to start her own supper club, using handwritten recipes from her late mother’s recipe book. As the supper club gains in popularity, Maya finds that this reintroduction to her Indian heritage starts to bring back memories, some of which may have been forgotten for good reason. Can she find the strength to face her fears of what those memories may reveal?
The author deals with Maya’s mental health issues with a sympathetic hand. As the story progresses, we start to understand the true extent and the cause of Maya’s anxiety issues, and why she has suppressed so many of her childhood memories. Maya is a likeable and relatable character, and as a reader I felt invested in her voyage of self-discovery. I liked the way the story was structured, with her past revealed in snippets via her taste-inspired flashbacks.
A large part of the book focuses on Maya’s relationship with her father. Whilst they are close, and always have been, there is an underlying current there which, as the book progresses, we begin to understand. His past actions, rightly or wrongly, were all focused on protecting May and it must be tiring to have to maintain those lies/untruths for so many years. Having relied on her father’s stability for so many years, does Maya have the mental strength to cope with his move to India, his new relationship and the truths that will inevitably come out?
Whilst the book does deal with some serious issues, such as betrayal, infidelity, addiction and mental health issues, there is still a lot of humour throughout the book. I particularly enjoyed the sections set at End of the Road Cabins, the wilderness centre ran by Mikkel Olafsson. The author has spent time in the Arctic Circle and it really was fascinating to be given some idea as to what life is like out there.
I also loved the contrast between the Arctic and Indian cultures, you really can’t get two more different places in terms of climate, population density and cuisine. I found myself waiting eagerly for the next recipe and I cannot think of a better mix than the vibrant spices of a Punjabi dish and the chill of the Arctic.
The Arctic Curry Club is a compelling, interesting and thoroughly entertaining book. I really did enjoy it enormously and must thank Avon Books for providing me with a review copy.
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. This involved research trips to some of Europe’s remoter islands, including Spitsbergen, in the Arctic Circle.
Upon finishing her PhD, Dani spent two years living in India and working as a freelance travel writer, with her articles appearing in publications such as National Geographic Traveller India. 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).