Review Blog

Apr 01 2020

Elephants with headlights by Bem Le Hunte

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Transit Lounge, 2020. ISBN: 9781925760484. 304pp.
(Age: Adult) Highly recommended. When blonde Australian girl Mae meets handsome Indian boy Neel on a beach in India, it is instant romance, leading to a shared life together in Australia, only returning to India for their special Indian wedding. But as Mae steps foot in the family home, there is the inevitable clash of cultures. For this reader, having once had an Indian mother-in-law, the explosive scenes are all too familiar, and very funny. From what she wears, to where she goes, to what she says, everything Mae does is wrong, and Neel is caught in the middle of the battle of wills between his mother and his future wife.
At the same time, another conflict brews between mother Tota and daughter Savitri - for Savitri refuses to consider marriage proposals from any of the suitors suggested for her. Finding a husband for her is not a simple matter as she was born under a cursed sign. But Savitri will have none of it and is intent on making her own life.
India is revealed in all its complexities and chaos - from the headlights for elephants in the traffic, to the contemplation of driverless cars. And of course there is a mystical element, no book about India could be without it - from the mathematical astrologer to the 200 hundred year old guru who looks in his fifties. The curses, the traditions, and the astrological charts all have their place, and somehow infuse the modern world - and eventually people do find love, fulfilment and understanding.
One of the nice things about this story, is the respect for the grandmother or female elder in each family, Dadi in the Indian family, and Dolly in the Australian family. Each of them is the wise woman and peacemaker, the heart of the family. Mae and Savitri, whilst very modern independent young women, each learn from their beloved elder.
There is lots to like about this story. The characters are realistic and familiar, the conflict of generations and cultures is told with a subtle humour, and the mystical entwines with the modern in a willing suspension of disbelief, leading to a heart-warming and satisfying conclusion. Themes: India, Feminism, Destiny, Conflict, Modern vs Traditional.
Helen Eddy

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