Let me start by saying that I have minimal experience with Indian or Pakistani culture. Most of my friends who are Indian were raised in the UK or US. They’re also all female. I’ve been on only one date with a man of Pakistani descent. He did get drunk and ask if we could have sex. I said no and he stuck me with the bill, but I wouldn’t claim that was representative of his entire culture or men in general. So I can’t comment on the cultural veracity of this story in any way. I can say that I am grateful not to live in a world that reflects this story in any way.
Bollywood Wives is a sordid tale. The women are pawns for rich males who exploit them physically, mentally and emotionally. Outwardly, they’re expected to portray traditional values of female purity while privately demanded to engage in base, animalistic sex with any interested male. The novel seeks to explore the fallout from these conflicting expectations.
The story works in its ability to be a compelling page-turner. The primary mystery moves the plot well (though I didn’t love its resolution). The author paints his scene with dark colors and moves us through the world with consistent energy.
The book is written in 3rd person distant with a great deal of head-hopping. I’m not sure I thought that the best choice since it didn’t quite achieve being character-driven and the long paragraphs of internal experience disrupted the plot at times. There aren’t many likable characters. Even the one person we are told is a good person comes across as cold and dismissive. I find this a common theme in edgy fiction written by men - the world is full of unsavory people who can and should be used and abused. Again, grateful it’s not my reality.
I will warn readers that the sex and language are explicit. I wouldn’t call it sexy at all - just sex-filled and not with pleasant sex. The women have orgasms they don’t seem to enjoy while the men have orgasms they don’t deserve. The book threatened to be triggering at times so be forewarned if you have assault. It flirts with the line of being assault exploitative even as it tries to say that assault is wrong.
None of this is unexpected for genre - if anything, it’s very representative and fairly well done. The novel is an interesting romp through the destructive nature of power and money as it explores the ways that entitlement lead to exploitation. I just sincerely hope it’s not a good reflection of the experience of Indian and Pakistani women.