“Monday night. Wednesday morning. Friday lunchtime. Holland Bakker plans her journeys to work around the times the handsome Irish musician, Calvin McLoughlin, plays his guitar in the 50th Street subway station. Lacking the nerve to actually talk to the gorgeous stranger, Holland is destined to admire him from a distance. Then a near-tragedy causes her busker to come to her rescue, only to disappear when the police start asking questions. Keen to repay Calvin, Holland gets him an audition with her uncle, Broadway’s hottest musical director. When he aces the tryout, Calvin’s luck seems to have turned – until his reason for disappearing earlier becomes clear: he doesn’t have a visa. Impulsively, Holland offers to wed the Irishman to keep him in New York, still keeping her infatuation secret. Calvin becomes the darling of Broadway, while their relationship evolves from awkward roommates to besotted lovers. Yet surrounded by theatre and actors, what will it take for Holland and Calvin to realise that they both stopped pretending a long time ago?” (Synopsis from the publisher)
Title: Carol/The Price of Salt (1952)
Author: Patricia Highsmith
Read: 21st – 24th February 2018
Genre: romance; LGBTQ
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
“Therese is just an ordinary sales assistant working in a New York department store when a beautiful, alluring woman in her thirties walks up to her counter. Standing there, Therese is wholly unprepared for the first shock of love. Therese is an awkward nineteen-year-old with a job she hates and a boyfriend she doesn’t love; Carol is a sophisticated, bored suburban housewife in the throes of a divorce and a custody battle for her only daughter. As Therese becomes irresistibly drawn into Carol’s world, she soon realises how much they both stand to lose…
First published pseudonymously in 1952 as The Price of Salt, Carol is a hauntingly atmospheric love story set against the backdrop of fifties’ New York.”
(Synopsis from the publisher)
Ayisha Malik’s Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged is marketed generally as a Muslim Bridget Jones, and it’s not a bad descriptor, if a little reductive. Personally though, I found Sofia much more relatable than dear old Bridget – and, believe me, I adore Ms Jones – but maybe that’s due to Sofia’s penchant for one too many chocolate Hobnobs (something I myself am partial to) despite my/our better judgement.
“I tried! I did! But what normal human being would ask another human
being to live with a cohort of mother, father, brother and sister-in-law with two children, complete with a sister and brother-in-law and three children next door,
and a hole-in-the-wall joining the two houses?
(Just writing that sentence about so many people confused me; imagine living with them.)“
Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged is the diary of the eponymous Sofia Khan, a 30-year old Londoner who works in publishing and just happens to also be a practicing Muslim who wears a hijab – something which a man on the Tube takes exception to, rather loudly, earning Sofia’s brilliant comeback “Oi, terrorists don’t wear vintage shoes, you ignorant wanker!” Such a comeback displays the tone and wit of Sofia Khan but also illustrates how unafraid Ayisha Malik is of discussing the prejudices that many Muslims face, even in twenty-first century London. After regaling her publishing colleagues with a story of how her would-be fiancé expects her to move in with him, his parents, and the literal hole in the wall of their home, Sofia inadvertently becomes the spokesperson for the Muslim dating scene in London, and begins writing a book on the subject, amidst her crazy household, constant questions of when she’s getting married, and a gruff, bemused Irish neighbour.