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Soldier And Spice, Aditi Mathur Kumar’s novel based on the life of an Indian Army wife is a mature addition to the chick-lit genre.
Review by Shaifali Agrawal
Soldier And Spice, a first novel by Aditi Mathur Kumar is a story about a new Army wife, Pia and how she finds it difficult being one, gradually settles into the role and finally grows up to tackle people and become street smart as she faces situations and incidents in the ‘fauj’ when she interacts with other Army wives.
The novel is written in a first person narrative and the style is chatty. We get to see the inner life of Pia’s mind and sometimes just a little too much of it, for she has a love for gossip, which gets her into trouble as well. We are a part of her pep-talks to herself with a inside track into the toxic people in her life.
The first half of the novel is a little slow where the writer shows us how the protagonist meets people and make friends with other army wives, is shocked at discovering some of the rules and traditions of the army and the conventions an army wife is supposed to follow. You get the feeling that the army is another world all-together.
Aditi being an army wife herself, seems to have drawn on her own life experiences for the novel, especially how she felt when she entered the Army headquarters for the first time. With an active narrative style, she manages to ‘show, not tell.’ There are lighter moments when Pia and her girlfriends are talking about movies or clothes.
Just when we feel that the story is not moving forward and there seems to be no plot in action, we are taken by surprise as Pia gets involved in a whirlwind of incidents and emotions. The tension is palpable in the air. Pia is a well-rounded character who emerges victorious, who has all the pride of an army wife, but still manages to keep her good nature and caring attitude intact, together with her child-like giggle.
Despite the good narrative, plot and structure, the book sometimes seems to be trying too hard to be funny, when it is not, especially in the first half.
This would be classified as a chick-lit novel. While it does have standard elements of the genre such as the ramblings of a girl about her disappointment at her new dresses going to waste, reading articles from Cosmopolitan, the excitement of getting a new BFF to go shopping with, etc., unlike usual chick-lit novels where the main focus is girl-meets-boy this one begins with Pia on her way to her new house with her husband, Arjun. How they come out as strong individuals and a strong pair, giving strength to one another in difficult times forms the rest of the story. The book is therefore a more mature version of the usual chick-lit novel.
As Pia’s favourite fridge magnet says, “There is strong. There is Army Strong. And then there is Army Wife Strong.” This quote is the major theme of the novel, which Aditi Mathur Kumar has cleverly and effectively supported and made the readers believe in 250 pages. She has definitely upped the ante on readers’ expectations from her next book.
Publishers: Westland Books
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