Author Sonali Dev’s new novel is an Indian twist on Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’

Sonali Dev’s newest book, “Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors,” is an Indian take on Jane Austen’s classic, “Pride and Prejudice.”

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.

The Other Mrs.

         After staying up late reading The Other Mrs. by Chicago author Mary Kubica, I have a word of advice for women out there. If you’re husband’s sister commits suicide and her home on a remote island off the coast of Maine is yours if you agree to live there and take care of her defiant teen-aged daughter, just say no.

An isolated island, a frayed marriage and a spooky house where the last owner died in the attic--so what could possible go wrong? Everything in this new suspense-thriller from Mary Kubica.

         But unfortunately, Sadie, a Chicago physician didn’t do that. Instead, after a brief lapse in consciousness where she walked out of an operating room and was later found on the edge of a roof, she and her husband Will—a charming and handsome man with an eye for ladies—take the offer. Sadie was about to lose her job and her license and besides, she’s just found out that Will was having an affair. So the couple pack up their children and move into Alice’s home. It’s the kind of place where doors squeak at night, the wind howls outside and the frayed rope Alice used to hang herself still swings from the rafter in the attic. Then, things take even more sinister of a turn when Morgan, a nearby neighbor is found murdered in her home.

         Obviously, the move was a bad choice and to make it worse, Sadie, working as a doctor in a clinic, still finds herself losing track of time and what she is doing. Add to that, she also worries about Will, a stay-at-home dad for their two sons, and his friendships with pretty mothers whose children play with theirs. If he cheated once, will he do so again, she wonders. Even worse, though Sadie never met Morgan, an elderly couple claim they saw her tear out a chunk of her hair during a fight in the days before her murder.

         This is Kubica’s sixth novel and her last five have made the New York Times and USA Today best seller list.

         “I love to work under the surface with people—there really is so much we don’t know about people,” says Kubica, a former high school history teacher who starts with a premise for her plots and then let’s her writing—and her characters—take her along for a ride so to speak. “My characters really drive what I write. I can start off in one direction and then the book can go a different way.”

         Kubica seems to live a normal life. That is until after her teenaged children go to school, then spends her days in this dark, psychologically twisted world of sublevels and secrets. Two of her favorite authors are Megan Abbott and Paula Hawkins who also write about women in peril who are often unreliable narrators—causing readers to wonder if they can believe their stories. It all adds to the suspense. But readers should understand, Kubica is often just as surprised as they are.

         “I have no idea what to expect,” she says. “But it’s fun.”

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