The main plot of the book mostly focuses on Debjani (the fourth oldest daughter), who has just begun as an anchor at DD, the primary news channel in India at the time. This puts her in conflict with her father's card buddy's son Dylan Shekhawat, an investigative journalist trying to implicate high-up politicians for their role in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and rather looks down on Debjani for spouting government propaganda.
This is my favorite out of all of Anuja Chauhan's books and feels very much like what I've been waiting for. I love that this is in third person POV, compared to the first person of her past two books; I felt I got a much better sense of Debjani's community and the various family dynamics (in two families! that was nice). I did like the romance a lot, especially Dylan, but like her other books, I also really like the non-romance relationships. And my favorite bits were actually the investigative journalism. Another plus was that the Debjani/Dylan relationship got much further before undergoing the usual relationship crisis: families met! And the crisis was in part based on a big misunderstanding, but at least with more of a twist than the usual.
Chauhan sets it up so that the Big Mis looks like it's going to be about Dylan writing a scathing article about Debjani the first night she appears on TV, but thankfully Dylan actually realizes this could be a Thing and that Debjani will probably find out eventually. And he writes a letter to say so! The entire perfume switcheroo was a little unbelievable (Dylan never says "letter"! Debjani never asks why perfume!) but as contrivances go, it's not too bad. Okay, also I am a bit of a sucker of "it all happened because little kids were being kids!"
I actually wish we got more of a sense of Debjani; she felt a bit like a stock Chauhan heroine who is quirky and offbeat but adorable, and I was much clearer re: why she liked Dylan than Dylan being attracted to her. I think a lot of this was how her character arc ended... because I am into stories in which ideals/morals/ethics are elevated over romance, I kind of wish she had done her big over-the-air announcement with knowledge of the consequences to her career and choosing it anyway. Also if it had been for the politics as well as her feelings for Dylan, since that seemed to be where the whole "Dylan thinks Dabbu is just a mouthpiece for the government" thing was going.
Other random bits: I REALLY want to know about sister #3. I was kind of confused about Eshwari's maybe romance; at times I thought Chauhan was telegraphing that no, you don't always have to return someone's crush on you, but I wasn't completely sure that was what the book ended on. Also saw that there is a sequel about Dabbu's nephew (by marriage) and niece, which I really want to read. I'm also not talking about various little moments, like Dylan's parents' romantic anniversary or Debjani always being overshadowed by her oldest sister or how the rocky bits of Debjani and Dylan's relationship really affects their families, especially their fathers.
And I very much liked the look at 1980s India, the sense of things changing and bringing with it more access to foreign goods, the changing role of the press and the gradual loss of government control over said press. It feels very real, how the characters all react to some of that without the book just being about social change, which is something that many authors have a difficult time balancing... either it feels like the characters are a bit out of place in the supposed historical setting, or that there is too much "look how much I researched xyz!" Also, some of it is a bit nostalgic for me, particularly things like finding local versions of foreign imported junk food in corner stores or trying to emulate clothes. I don't really remember a lot of the details of political change going on in Taiwan because I was a kid at the time, but a lot of the KMT stronghold on Taiwan was lessening right around me being in high school. And ditto the flood of imported goods and whatnot.
Anyway! I very much enjoyed the Anuja Chauhan book club, and thanks to deepad for organizing the entire thing. And I hope I can get my hands on an ebook, or a US publisher decides to bring her over here or something, because I really want to see grown-up Thakur kids.
(Also, apparently Chauhan wrote a short story prequel to Zoya Factor for Valentine's Day!)
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