In the 300-room Sagar Mahal, the Ocean Palace built by her great-times-four grandfather on the Arabian Sea, 13-year-old Trisha Raje is coached by her father not to be overwhelmed by the sorrow she sees at a school for the blind but instead find a solution, so she doesn’t feel badly.
And so, she does. Before long, Trisha has created a global charity that performs eye surgeries on the needy and then becomes San Francisco’s premier neurosurgeon, a woman with immense skill but so lacking in social graces that many in her family are not talking to her, as she once inadvertently jeopardized her older brother’s fast-track political career.
But that isn’t Trisha’s only difficulty in Sonali Dev’s newest book, “Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors,” an Indian take on Jane Austen’s classic, “Pride and Prejudice.”
Dev switches up the focus between Trisha and DJ Caine, a rising-star chef whose cancer-stricken sister is a patient of Trisha’s. Trisha is a descendent of Indian Royalty, while Caine, a Rwandan/Anglo-Indian, belongs to a much lower social class — the classic Austen-style mismatch.
To paraphrase Austen, Dev writes, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that only in an overachieving Indian-American family can a genius daughter be considered a black sheep,” and the book reflects classic Austen, with its subtle ironic humor and the structured setting required in any well-to-do aristocratic English or Indian milieu.
Trisha has broken the three ironclad rules of her family: Never trust an outsider, never do anything to jeopardize your brother’s political aspirations and never, ever, defy your family.
Trisha must cope with falling in love with Caine, saving his sister and ensuring that she will not somehow disgrace her family again.
Dev, who is married with two teenagers and lives in Naperville, says she’s been entranced with Jane Austen’s book since watching the Indian TV adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice,” called “Trishna,” in the 1980s when she was a middle-schooler.
“I went straight to the library and checked out “Pride and Prejudice” and read it over and over,” she says.
As for writing, Dev says she wrote before she could even read, making up stories and characters, noting she wrote and acted in her first play when she was 8. “Writing has always been with me,” she says.
She grew up in Mumbai though the family traveled a lot as her father was in the military.
“I was always the new kid on the block with a book,” she says.
She continues to read and write at an amazing speed.
“I am in fact waiting to get the edits back for my new book,” she says, noting that writing is an escape, a way of putting yourself in the shoes of someone not like you.