I really enjoyed Roopa Farooki’s first novel, Bitter Sweets. Her prose was lively, her characters unique, and the overall story was intriguing. Reading Corner Shop, however, made me wonder, “what happened?”
The story centers around the Khalil family: Zaki, who runs a corner shop in a run-down part of London; his son, Jinan, who’s a lawyer; Jinan’s wife, Delphine, a French transplant; and their son, Lucky, destined to have a great career as a soccer player. The story follows the characters over a long period of time, from the moment that Zaki and Delphine meet until the present.
The first part of this book started off strongly and promisingly enough. But then, it deteriorated for me towards the middle (I’ll be spoiling the story if I say any more). The Asian influence, which was such a big part of the story in Bitter Sweets, is only incidental here; in fact, these characters could have been British Caucasians. There’s very little warmth and vitality here, either in the story or the characters. Of the four main characters, Farooki’s depiction of Lucky is easily the best, with Zaki’s being the weakest (and I didn’t like how she suddenly turned the narrative to first-person halfway though the book).
With regards to the story itself, Farooki also had this annoying habit of picking up ideas for plot twists and then abandoning them immediately. About half of the novel has that “chick lit” feel, as the reader is introduced to Delphine’s friends and their problems. Too, the book didn’t seem to have much of an ending, only a tacked-on “25 years later” kind of thing that left me disappointed. And whatever happened to Zaki? Farooki is a strong writer, and I’m hoping that this is only a “sophomore slump” from her. I look forward to reading more of what she writes.
Also reviewed by: The Book Lady's Blog