St. Martin's Press
August 2, 2003
Trade Paperback/302 pages
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"Pranab as antagonist weakens the strength of an otherwise palatable cup of tea. . ."
"Kirchner's sweeping family saga unfolds with the exotic flavor of richly brewed tea.. . ."
Bharti Kirchner''s sweeping family saga, Darjeeling, unfolds with the exotic flavor of richly brewed tea. Set in India, New York, and Canada, the novel follows a decade in the life of a tea plantation family, specifically the
matriarch and rivaling sisters, one beautiful and noble, the other smart and awkward.
The young women are drawn into a love triangle with Pranab, a revolutionary-type overseer on the plantation.
Romance escalates into betrayal, challenging the plantation''s very existence. The rift forces Pranab and the sisters into various exiles, where they must face the mistakes of the past and forge their futures.
In spite of Darjeeling''s texture and spice, Kirchner''s fluid writing maintains a too-formal distance, preventing readers from complete
participation in her story. We enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells, but it all feels separate, as if glassed away by an invisible barrier.
Pranab, presented as the passionate lover extraordinaire, comes across as immature and mulish. Readers may struggle with why our intelligent heroines ever tangle with him in the first place. We don''t buy into their devotion
for the unworthy Pranab, and when the sisters eventually wise-up, we no longer care.
The family matriarch says of Pranab, near the end of the story, "He didn''t have the character," succinctly summing up Darjeeling''s problem. Pranab, as antagonist, weakens the strength of an otherwise palatable cup of tea, lessening the story that Darjeeling could have been.
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Reviewer: M.K. Daniels