The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters by Balli Kaur Jaswal- 2019
Last month I read a delightful novel by Balli Kaur Jaswal,Erotic Stories of Punjabi Widows. Set in the close-nit Sikh community of London, it focuses on a young unmarried Sikh woman trying to keep her faith while avoiding the tight strictures placed on women of the faith. The woman ends up teaching a class in writing at a community center to Punjabi widows which results in some very erotic stories.
I was very happy to receive a review copy of Jaswal’s second novel. The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters. In it three sisters, raised in London,from a Sikh family, accede to their mother’s last request, that they make a pilgrimage together to scatter her ashes at The Golden Temple in Amritsar, the holiest of all Sikh centers. The mother has written some letters telling them what to do on the trip.
(My wife and I have three adult daughters and this increased my preliminary interest in the book.)
The sisters, each with their own very well developed personalities, are not initially enthusiastic about the idea, they have spent some time in India but they are British subjects and know India will be a shock to their affluent London sensibilities. I thought Jaswal did a wonderful job capturing the chaos and the sensual overload of urban India. Jezmeen is a struggling actress, just publicly fired from her TV acting job hoping to break into Bollywood. In a running gag, she resembles a famous movie star. She is kind of the rebel of the family. Another sister is a school principal very much a follower of proper behavior.The oldest married into a wealthy family, has a perfect seeming life and is the peacemaker. She lives in Australia now, under the thumb of her mother in law.
The sisters were never particularly close as children and know they will have to work to get along.
This is a hilarious book with numerous very well done episodes Jezmeen was arrested at a protest rally, getting her out of jail was a real challenge for the other two sisters! The girls are British citizens born and raised in London and part of the fun of the book is seeing their reaction to India. The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters is very much a spoiled sisters go to India and bond book. There is a lot to learn about the Sikh faith in The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters. There is a very dramatic and lengthy visit to the Golden Temple, not just a religious site but the cultural home of all Sikhs.
The personalities of the sisters is developed and their are flashbacks to their youth. The sisters are drawn closer, the real objective of their mother.
This was a lot of fun to read.
BALLI KAUR JASWAL . From ballijaswal.com
is the author of Inheritance, which won the Sydney Morning Herald’s Best Young Australian Novelist Award in 2014 and was adapted into a film at the Singapore International Festival of the Arts in 2017.Her second novel Sugarbread was a finalist for the 2015 inaugural Epigram Books Fiction Prize and the 2018 Singapore Literature Prize.
Her third novel Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows (Harper Collins/William Morrow) was released internationally to critical acclaim in March 2017. Translation rights to this novel have been sold in France, Spain, Italy, Israel, Poland, Germany, Sweden, Greece, China, Brazil and Estonia. Film rights to Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows have been acquired by Ridley Scott’s production company, Scott Free Productions and Film Four in the UK. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows was also picked by Reese Witherspoon’s book club and The Girly Book Club in 2018.
Jaswal’s short fiction and non-fiction writing have appeared in the UK Sunday Express, Cosmopolitan Magazine, The New York Times, Harpers Bazaar, Conde Nast Traveller and Best Australian Short Stories, among other publications and periodicals. She has travelled widely to appear in international writers festivals to conduct workshops and lectures on creative writing, pursuing an artistic career, the power of storytelling, global citizenship and social justice advocacy through literature. A former writing fellow at the University of East Anglia, Jaswal has taught creative writing at Yale-NUS College and Nanyang Technological University where she is currently pursuing a PhD.