Haveli, by Zeenat Mahal.
Haveli, by Zeenat Mahal. Indireads, 2014. ebook.
SOUTH ASIAN WOMEN WRITERS
GLOBAL WOMEN OF COLOR
An engaging nouvella about a teenage girl in Pakistan caught up a struggle over who gets to say whom she will marry. A romance that reflects traditional South Asian values and practices and how those are changing.
Chandni, the narrator of Haveli, is bright, cynical, and rebellious. Her father had disappeared when she was an infant and her mother died soon after. She has been raised by her grandmother, a caring but demanding woman, not given to showing affection. The family is very rich. The title Haveli refers to the private mansions in Pakistan and India like the ones in which Chandni grew up and which provide the context for her story. Chandni was home-schooled and never had friends her own age. She understands little about how other people think and act and is stubbornly committed to her delusions, which often make her appear ridiculous. For a time, she pursues an older, totally unavailable man. Then the attractive son of family friends appears, easily tearing away her facades. Her grandmother decrees that Chandni must marry him, and she rebels. Then her long-lost father returns, determined that she marry someone else. Enamored with her father, Chandni struggles with the conflicting demands and with her own need to be loved.
Zeenat Mahal is from Pakistan and has studied there and in England. This is her first book. By making Chandni the narrator of Haveli, Mahal reveals the telling gaps between what the young woman sees and what is actually going on. Chandni is not an easy character to like, at least at first, and I sometimes found myself as frustrated with her as the other characters were. Gradually my sympathy grew, as I realized the dilemma in which she found herself. She is a privileged and sheltered girl, with good reasons to fear falling in love.
Haveli was published by Indireads, an innovative publisher interested in producing genre books online. Like the books they offer, their goal is to publish books that are both traditional and modern. They specialize in romances set in South Asia and reflecting that culture and the ways it is changing.
South Asian romance has its own unique characteristics and is very different from the western concept of romance. Drawing from the very essence of the region, our stories are representative of the modern, independent, and forward thinking South Asian of today, yet are rooted in our culture and tradition.
Most of the books that Indireads publishes are novellas and available only online. They may be purchased at their website. Although their books are romances, they are intentionally varied. Some are for younger readers and about first loves, and others are about older people seeking deeper, more complex relationships. In addition they publish romances that feature mystery, suspense, and fantasy. Haveli is a fine example of the stories they want to publish.
I recommend Haveli to readers eager for a romance shaped by the traditions and modern practices of South Asia. Perhaps younger readers will be more generous with its young characters than someone like myself.
I am grateful for receiving a review copy of this book.