A book’s cover is quite a determining factor for me while choosing it. There are certain authors and certain genres which have their own distinct type of covers. Debbie Macomber’s are very ethereal looking with pastel colours, much like her novels which have a gentle pace to them. Chick-lit has mostly book covers with illustrations and the font used for the title is usually very casual and loopy. When I saw Julia Llewellyn’s book, ‘Ten Minutes To Fall In Love’, it didn’t look like it fell in the latter genre, yet the blurb on the cover said that it was ‘A perfect beach read’. I wasn’t quite sure about this since the picture showed a beautiful young woman lost in thought and according to me looking quite sad ! .Anyway I took the plunge and borrowed it from the library.
It’s definitely not a beach read. It tries very hard to be fun n’ frolic but there’s a strong thread of cynicism running through which is rather like a sad person sitting in the room where we’re having a party. It’s impossible to let go and enjoy cos we feel so sorry for her. Zu or Zulekha is the central character who has an Indian mother and an English dad. Her mother killed herself when she was a child and this trauma has affected her deeply. Leela is her maternal grandmother and heads her own cosmetics company ! Awesome person this. Then there’s Masha, a Russian who runs a dating agency with her husband, Zu’s father Tony who works in an instrument repair shop and Zu’s friend Jack Henchie. Gillian makes a brief appearance as someone who Tony meets through the dating agency. She has an extremely spoilt daughter, Holly. Add Zu’s twin brothers Kieran and Rohan and the stage is set.
Story – Zu is just back in England from her stint as an aid worker in an orphanage in Chechnya. She’s on the lookout for a similar job somewhere else in the world. Her mother’s suicide has made her wary of any form of emotional commitment to anybody including her father. Kieran and Rohan are leaving home to pursue their lives and Zu finds herself staying with her dad. Feeling slightly guilty about leaving her dad alone all these years, she contacts a dating agency to find someone for him. Zu meets Masha the owner of the Temperley Bureau and ends up working for her. Zu sees this as only a temporary arrangement since she wants to leave the country again. Enroute to making her dad happy, Zu meets an old acquaintance, Jack Henchie. The crux of the story is Zu’s fear of commitment and how she comes to terms with her past. She realises that in order to embrace the future she has to let go of the past and the baggage which came with it. Tony has a couple of relationships and then ends up finding he has a lot in common with Gillian whom he had rejected after meeting her on a date through the agency.
Like – I loved the female characters. Leela and Masha are older yet they seem younger than Zu with their enthusiasm and energy. These two ladies have pulled themselves up by the bootstraps and carved a successful niche in their areas of operation. I wanted to read more about them ! I liked the fact that both the Russian and Indian characters are shown as normal sections of society. They are not shown as caricatures and the usual cliches are avoided.
Dislike – The main problem was that I expected something lighter and full of life when I read the blurb on the cover. So I was disappointed by the weary cynicism hiding behind sentences. I could have shaken Gillian and told her to behave like a mother to Holly and not her friend ! I felt a sense of despair throughout the story and at the same time I felt that the story was trying to escape from the hands of the author and become joyful ! It was neither here nor there, just like me when I finished the book. I didn’t know whether to brood or to be happy for Zu.
If you are in the mood for something melancholic which does not become too heavy then this is for you. It’s definitely well written and maybe enjoyed more as a ‘rainy day read’ rather than a ‘beach read’ 🙂