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Publisher's Summary

Hilarious and heartwarming, an East-meets-West novel for fans of The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul.

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.

©2017 Balli Kaur Jaswal (P)2017 HarperCollins Publishers

Critic Reviews

"Big-hearted, earthy and funny: turns so many preconceptions upside down and opens up a world that so many of us have only glimpsed. A rattlingly good story." (Deborah Moggach, author of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel)
"Compulsive, funny and wonderfully original - this novel glows with witty sensuality. I love it." (Helen Lederer, author of Losing It)
"Poignant, intelligent yet wickedly funny - a delightful read that reignites one's belief in the power of sisterhood." (June Sarpong)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • GB
  • 10-25-17

Great Discovery

I bought this book on the title. It started off like a YA novel that was well written and well read but it soon became a fascinating journey into a complex world.
It deals with the lives of people in an alien environment who live within a introverted self protecting society.
Its characters are likeable and sympathetic and strong without being unrealistically aggressive
The story is compelling enough to keep you wanting more.
The reading is really good. The readers light tone only draws attention to the issues that are drawn out.
Altogether excellent entertainment though an interesting landsacpe

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  • Louise
  • 03-20-17

Laugh out loud funny


I absolutely loved this audiobook. It was a perfect combination of storyteller and narrator. Even though there were some serious subjects, the book was upbeat and enjoyable. It really was laugh out loud funny. A rare gem!

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Rozemarijn
  • 04-07-17

Enjoyable story with some depth

Lovely book with a bit of everything. I liked the cross culture storyline. The main characters seemed real and sympathetic.
The story is a bit suprising and not to predictable. Light enough and real enough.

The erotic stories were suprisingly poetic and well read. A real achievement.

There is real heartfelt drama and also fear. Many funny "parts" and real human dilemma's. I fully recommend this book.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Reema
  • 01-11-18

unnecessary details. too long.

struggled to finish. Idea and concept was good though. but could have been better in editing department. unnecessary details tends to lose objectivity of the story

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Suswati
  • 09-13-17

Interesting, a little repetitive

I wasn't sure what to expect with this bizarrely named novel, and I was slightly worried it would be some Karma Sutra style book but it was nothing of the kind.

A group of old Punjabi women attend an English language class run by a British Asian young woman who mistakenly brings in an erotic book one day. It opens up a world of sensuous pleasure for the women, who are normally quite conservative about such topics.

While it's quite a novelty and funny at the beginning, the stories become repetitive and it becomes a little boring. The honour crime story was far more interesting and I wish there was more focus on that side instead of turning it in to a Gurinder Chadha type of novel. The stories are meant to open up other aspects of the community such as arranged marriages and the impact of honour - but it just doesn't seem to connect that well.

The protagonist Nicky is great though who reflects many British Asians growing up with dual cultures. Good but not great.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Claire
  • 04-01-17

brilliant performance

Meera Syal's performance brings this book and it's characters to life. Fans of Alexander McCall Smith should give this book a try.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Panda
  • 05-16-18

brilliant read!

great read
fantastic insight to the Indian culture
made me laugh giggle and squirm at times

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Mrs JEL
  • 04-09-18

An interesting glimpse into a community

I think the reason I liked this book so much was that it helped me understand and respect communities that exist within the uk today of which I had only the briefest knowledge. Yes, as everywhere there is wickedness, but the widows and their friends kick back at it successfully and emerge triumphant.

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  • Burt775
  • 03-23-18

unexpected and brilliantly engrossing!

I wasn't sure what to expect and I was delighted with e every word and thread of this wonderful story! I LOVED it!

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Gurps
  • 02-18-18

Better than I expected.

Loved it!
Didn't want it to end!
I would recommend to friends and family. :)

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Harriet Ellis
  • 08-03-17

Just wonderful

I adored this book it made me feel happy and hopeful.

The narrator is always brilliant and she really brings a book alive whether it's her own or in this case someone else's

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  • Emilie Hope
  • 05-04-18

Good but some voice acting

My one qualm with the voice acting was two characters turned South African and Irish at times.

The story itself is interesting and fascinating: a glimpse into a culture most people don't know about but sometimes the prose was too expositional and bare boned for my liking.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-03-18

Another good book on Reese Witherspoon’s book club!

Excellent story into the lives of a fascinating group of women. Story keeps you engaged the whole way through. No matter the culture we all have a lot of the same problems with love and life.
The American accent the narrator uses is slightly irritating but it isn’t in there too often. Definitely a must read