Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows
A Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick!
‘Big-hearted, earthy and funny… A rattlingly good story’ Deborah Moggach, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Every woman has a secret life…
When Nikki takes a creative writing job at her local temple, with visions of emancipating the women of the community she left behind as a self-important teenager, she’s shocked to discover a group of barely literate women who have no interest in her ideals.
Yet to her surprise, the white dupatta of the widow hides more than just their modesty – these are women who have spent their lives in the shadows of fathers, brothers and husbands; being dutiful, raising children and going to temple, but whose inner lives are as rich and fruitful as their untold stories. But as they begin to open up to each other about womanhood, sexuality, and the dark secrets within the community, Nikki realises that the illicit nature of the class may place them all in danger.
East meets west and tradition clashes with modernity in a thought-provoking cross-cultural novel that might make you look again at the women in your life…
‘Big-hearted, earthy and funny: turns so many preconceptions upside down. A rattlingly good story’ Deborah Moggach, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
‘Warm and hilariously funny’ Good Housekeeping
‘Charming, hilarious and thoughtful’ The Pool
‘Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows balances darkness and light, social commentary and ecstatic escapism… funny and moving tale of desire and its discontents’ The Economist
‘Sensual, authentic and hilarious, I will never look at an aubergine in the same way again – 5 stars’ The Sun
‘Enlightening and entertaining’ Woman & Home
‘A dark comedy… about empowerment and friendship’ Tatler
‘A page turner… Tackles serious themes with a light and funny touch’ Glamour
‘Funny yet serious, this is a fab book about women, culture and secrets’ Prima
‘By turns erotic, romantic, and mysterious, this tale of women defying patriarchal strictures enchants’ Kirkus Reviews
‘Compulsive, funny and wonderfully original – this novel glows with witty sensuality. I love it ’ Helen Lederer, Losing It
‘Poignant, intelligent yet wickedly funny – a delightful read that reignites one's belief in the power of sisterhood’ June Sarpong
About the author
Balli Kaur Jaswal was born in Singapore and has lived all around the world, including Australia, Japan, Russia, the Philippines, Turkey, the US and the UK, where she was a writer in residence at UEA. Her novel, Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows, was inspired by the time she spent in Southall.
She now lives in Singapore.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Balli Kaur Jaswal’s third novel has been met with frenzied excitement. A rich, funny, and at times, truly startling book, it tells the story of a young creative writing teacher called Nikki and the group of Sikh women she assists in unlocking and vocalizing their desires. Woven between the warm moments of self-discovery are haunting depictions of honor killings and violence towards women in a south London community holding darks secrets. We finished reading feeling thoroughly enlightened and entertained.
When Nikki, a 22-year-old modern Punjabi woman, decides to teach a writing workshop for Punjabi widows two days a week in London's Southall area, she goes in with the idea that she will walk the widows through how to write stories and then compile the stories into an anthology at the end of the class. Unfortunately, the widows barely know how to write their own names. But something about the women makes Nikki want to try, and when the class discover a book of erotica meant as a gag gift for Nikki's sister, Mindi, all bets are off, and a sensation is born. Jaswal's charming debut features an engaging protagonist who longs to break free from her more traditional mother's expectations and who is still smarting from her father's death, but it's the portrayal of the women in Nikki's class that is the highlight: these women are considered invisible, but through their writing they can be seen and their desires and dreams can be acknowledged. It's a precious gift to give, and one Nikki comes to take very seriously. Additionally, the mystery of a young girl's death offers an interesting twist at the end. This is a sparkling read, bolstered by a few of the women's stories sprinkled in throughout.
An excellent read, mind provoking
The book reminded me of close living in a small English town of the 50’s, everyone new everybody else’s business and being privately convent educated one couldn’t even get away with eating a sweet on the street. Pregnant girls were sent away and rarely came home with there babies unless the father had been corralled and forced into a frequently unhappy marriage.
The great sadness in this book is the suicide/murder, the suppression of the women folk but the strength gained in numbers. And, who doesn’t respond to a little pawn.
The author has created such wonderful pictures of a community in turmoil, a community setting boundaries through prejudice, guilt and fear. She is also teaching the community to recognise their strengths, to believe in themselves and to take action to improve their future.
Non-relatable and boring
Very specific to Sikh punjabi culture..very myopic .. didn’t feel at all impressed neither warmed to characters who all come across as unlikeable. Characters are just inward with insular mindsets which is probably true of the Sikh community - but importantly just very boring.