!!> Read ➸ Jana Bibi’s Excellent Fortunes ➻ Author Betsy Woodman – Writerscompany.co.uk

Jana Bibi’s Excellent Fortunes 3.5 stars.I actually ended up liking this bookthan I had made up my mind to halfway through it I had picked it up randomly at some or the other Book Fair and never got around to reading it except for during this winter break, when I seem to have adequate leisure reading time At the end of it, I find myself glad to have picked up this light hearted, often rather silly, and endearing read.The plot itself was episodic, with a few sustained strands running through but primarily, the action 3.5 stars.I actually ended up liking this bookthan I had made up my mind to halfway through it I had picked it up randomly at some or the other Book Fair and never got around to reading it except for during this winter break, when I seem to have adequate leisure reading time At the end of it, I find myself glad to have picked up this light hearted, often rather silly, and endearing read.The plot itself was episodic, with a few sustained strands running through but primarily, the action of the novel was focused on these dispersed adventures the cast of wacky characters Jana Bibi encounters in the small town have Some character constructions were somewhat weak and stereotypical, I felt especially Lal Bahadur Pun , and some were stronger withdevelopment Jana herself, Feroze, Zohra, Moustapha, perhaps even Ramchandran The subplots were ofteninteresting, and though in some parts it got slow, a bit boring and a bit ridiculous, the ending had some poignant and uplifting moments More than the writing itself, I enjoyed the construction and contextualisation of the world.I was pleasantly surprised to find less, if not no, fetishisation and romanticisation of India and small towns here than I had expected from a European author writing about a European woman in post independence India There are ways in which Woodman foregrounds some relevant historical issues and narratives, and contextualises the story with unexpectedly detailed knowledge about socio cultural life in lower Himalayan India, and the 1960s in India Although at some points it felt a bit superficial, I did have fun recognising that the author has done her research well enough and, in some measure, engaged with the community she sought to tell the story of.I found myself surprised at the planned series, but it made sense seeing how Woodman deliberately leaves many strands of the story open ended, and questions unanswered Although I won t immediately get into the sequels, I wouldn t mind reading them at a later point when I m in the mood for something light and fun and occasionally thoughtful Positively enchanting Of course, Mr Ganguly the parrot steals the book I am counting on him stealing the second book as well. In The First Of A Charming Series, We Meet Jana Bibi, Who Has Inherited Her Grandfather S House In An Idyllic Hill Station In India Casting Aside The Conventions Of Her Upper Crust Upbringing, Jana Bibi Moves With Her Chatty Parrot, Mr Ganguly, And Her Loyal Housekeeper, Mary, To A Town Where The Local Merchants Are Philosophers, The Chief Of Police Is A Tyrant, And A Bagpipe Playing Gurkha Keeps Wild Monkeys At Bay Settling In, Jana Meets The Town S Colorful Local Characters Who Gather At The Why Not Tea Shop Her Neighbour, The Contemplative Darzi, Who Struggles With His Business And Family Former College Friends, Now Respectively Shopkeeper, Whose Shop Is Bursting At The Seams With Objects Of Unknown Provenance, And Newspaper Editor, Who Burns The Midnight Oil At His Printing Press A Tyrannical Head Of Police Who Rules The Village With An Iron Hand And The The Young Man With A Golden Voice, Who Wants To Be A Singer In The Movies When Word Gets Out That The Small Town Is In Danger Of Being Flooded By A New Government Dam, Forcing Everyone To Move And Start Over, Jana Is Enlisted To Save The Community Will Hamara Nagar Survive With Some Luck And Mr Ganguly The Fortune Telling Parrot, Fate May Be On Their Side After some good but heavy reads lately, this novel was so refreshing Filled with colour, music, humour and philosophy, it reminded me a bit of Deborah Moggach s Best Exotic Marigold Hotel which was a novel before it was a movie.I would so love to go to Hamara Nagar, the Indian hill station and hang out with Jana Bibi, Mr Ganguly, Mary and all the locals.and maybe even get my fortune told This is essentially what I would call a fun book, along the lines of The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency Set in Northern India in the 50 s, it follows the protagonist, nicknamed Jana Bibi, as she moves to an old house she has inherited in a small town and, through her involvement in a campaign to save the town from a govt dam, becomes entwined in the lives of her neighbors The book is full of the kind of lovable, slightly shallow characters that we can like without having to examine our motive This is essentially what I would call a fun book, along the lines of The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency Set in Northern India in the 50 s, it follows the protagonist, nicknamed Jana Bibi, as she moves to an old house she has inherited in a small town and, through her involvement in a campaign to save the town from a govt dam, becomes entwined in the lives of her neighbors The book is full of the kind of lovable, slightly shallow characters that we can like without having to examine our motives or values The plot is fairly predictable and it is indicated on the book itself that this is to be the first in a series But for light reading it is intelligent and well executed The local scene in vividly, and, it appears, accurately painted Not a deep or complex book, but relaxing and faintly uplifting Writing a book review becomes enjoyable when reading the book has given one some pleasure and I have to say, writing this review is one of the easiest things I ve done Jana Bibi s Excellent Fortunes by Betsy Woodman is the story of Jana Laird, a woman with a mission to save Hamara Nagar, a town where she has recently moved, to a house which was a part of the heritage left to her by her grandfather It is a place which she has fond childhood memories of.Reading the novel is akin to watching a Bo Writing a book review becomes enjoyable when reading the book has given one some pleasure and I have to say, writing this review is one of the easiest things I ve done Jana Bibi s Excellent Fortunes by Betsy Woodman is the story of Jana Laird, a woman with a mission to save Hamara Nagar, a town where she has recently moved, to a house which was a part of the heritage left to her by her grandfather It is a place which she has fond childhood memories of.Reading the novel is akin to watching a Bollywood movie You have a very Indian setting with a town aptly called Hamara Nagar Our Town and the town truly belongs to each one of us It s that town which you visited over the summer in your childhood and carry fond memories of It is that town where your twelve year old self spent evenings enjoying the cool breeze, strolling around with an ice cream in your hand You d say hello to every shop owner as you amble your way through the Bazaar with the ice cream dripping on to your navy blue shorts or your red frock Feroze, the philosopher tailor, Ramachandran, the owner of the antique store, Rambir, the reporter, Bandhu, the bullying police officer, Zohra, the elegant neighbor, Mary, the caring ayah, Tilku, the cute, errand boy, Moustapha, the small town boy with big city ambitions, Sandra, the typical American girl in a boarding school all of them come alive in the form of reminders of some distant past These characters are charmingly eccentric, yet so real that they remind you of the same people in your life At the same time, there are some good old emotions thrown into the story with which the characters come alive and resonate so well with the reader And there is chaos, a typically Indian experience.The novel tries to be a little Rushdie sque but, not quite in the portrayal of an imaginary town and its people in the 1960s However, it has a charm of its own Jana, the fifty five year old matron is an Indian citizen but of Scottish heritage She seemsIndian than a foreigner andtwenty five than fifty five as we come to know of her penchant for adventure and a desire to be away from the mundane At the same time, she seems full of wisdom and knows very well how to soothe troubled spirits Her parrot, Mr Ganguly, is an interesting character in itself, with its extraordinary intelligence and an ability to judge correctly the intention of people it comes across Her household and the neighborhood also consist of a mix of interesting characters.This novel is written about a specific time in India from the standpoint of a foreigner, for whom India seems to be like this toy you can get endlessly fascinated with However, the story is charming, funny in places and very endearing It s fast and does not bore you, or try to go on different platitudes However, it subtly comments on various serious topics especially through the mouth of Feroze, the simple, religious tailor It resonates with you when he says, Development is always somebody else s development or when he writes in his notebook, Life comes and hits you with first one thing And then a second And then yet a third Who would voluntarily be an archery target for others When I finished the novel, I thought, Well, this should have been a series instead of one book I wasn t surprised when I read on the back page later that it was the first book of a series on Jana Bibi I, for one, am looking forward to reading.For , visit www.booksandalot.com Jana Bibi s Excellent Fortunes is an agreeable, charming read But I was taken aback when reaching book s end to learn it is the first in a series One book yes, but I expect all the best bits now have been used The author is aiming, I expect, for Alexander McCall Smith s statospherically successful Precious Romatswe series but sans the mystery story That will take some doing In any case after the third Precious, that series got tired. After discovering Emeralds Included , the 3rd book in this series and enjoying it tremendously, just went back to the first bookgood fun Definitely interesting to learnabout living in India as well the geography, the culture, the daily life, and interactions between people of different faiths Leaves you feeling positive A great antidote to the long winter in snowier climes I do not remember how this book got my to read list and when I spotted it in the library I did not have great expectations out of it It surprised me The book is like watching a soap based in India drama, humor and great characters Set in the post independent India, this book took me to part of India I am not familiar with the westerners who came to India and stayed back It is quite interesting to see India through their eyes.A perfect weekend vacation read I don t know how to describe this book I liked it, but it was one that had to grow on me as I read I was not instantly smitten The characters were colorful, but the things happening to them never seemed to truly challenge them, and difficulties were solved easily, almost unbelievably so, actually The characters felt plausible, and their world felt plausible, but the neat and easy way it all worked out made this overall story fall a little bit short for me I may read the next Jana Bibi boo I don t know how to describe this book I liked it, but it was one that had to grow on me as I read I was not instantly smitten The characters were colorful, but the things happening to them never seemed to truly challenge them, and difficulties were solved easily, almost unbelievably so, actually The characters felt plausible, and their world felt plausible, but the neat and easy way it all worked out made this overall story fall a little bit short for me I may read the next Jana Bibi book, but then again, I may not I did love Mr Ganguly, though


About the Author: Betsy Woodman

Betsy Woodman spent ten formative years in India and studied in France and Zambia A graduate of Smith College, she earned a Master s degree in Anthropology from Brandeis University She has edited history books and been a frequent book reviewer, and was a writer editor for Experiencing War, the award winning radio documentary series for the Library of Congress Veterans History Project Her interest in languages, music, and cross cultural connections are in evidence in the Jana Bibi series She now lives in her native New Hampshire.


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