It’s an absolute pleasure to welcome Reshma Ruia to Linda’s Book Bag today as part of the blog tour and I’d like to thank Will Dady for inviting me to participate. Let’s find out what Reshma has to say about her latest book.
Staying in with Reshma Ruia
Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Reshma. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.
Thank you for having me! As writers we are used to hibernating inside our heads and how wonderful to share this space with you!
Gosh. You wouldn’t like to hibernate in my head Reshma! However, tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?
I have brought along my latest novel, Still Lives, which will be out end of June. This novel is a labour of love and has many layers to it that need exploring and examining. I am so excited about sharing it with the world! A huge thank you to Will and Renard Press for bringing it to life.
Congratulations on Still Lives Reshma. I have been hearing excellent things about it and had hoped to fit in reading it by our meeting but life got in the way, so what can we expect from an evening in with Still Lives?
An evening in with Still Lives will entertain you and move you. The book is set in Manchester and is told from the viewpoint of PK Malik, a middle aged man who is on a journey of self-discovery. He was successful once but now feels old, irrelevant and unloved. He has a wife, Geeta, who has problems of her own, and a young, troubled son called Amar. PK is drawn to another woman, Esther, who is beautiful and alluring, and is all that his life is not. The Maliks straddle different cultures and identities and try to find a stable point of reference between the past and the present in a rapidly changing world.
That sounds so relatable. Tell me more.
PK has a hunger for a better life, and the book is as much about his emotional landscape as it is about the spirit of Manchester, where rain is the soundtrack to most days. It is about love – the kind of love that damages and has far-reaching consequences. The book has shades of dark and light like life itself, and the manuscript was shortlisted for the SI Leeds Literary Award. Tessa Hadley read the manuscript and found it, ‘involved and interesting, with a living sense of characters and their worlds.’ Preti Taneja, author of We That are Young also read the manuscript and liked the book for its social realism and direct style. She thought that the main protagonist’s voice reminded her of Mike McCormack’s Solar Bones.
Wow. That’s some endorsement. I really MUST fit Still Lives into my forthcoming reads.
What else have you brought along and why have you brought it?
I would have to bring a big box of Alphonso mangoes. It is mango season in India right now, and the streets and homes are filled with the fragrance of this delicious fruit. Mango is an important leitmotif in my novel. PK Malik, the main character of my novel, tries to grow a mango tree in his back garden. The tree serves as an umbilical cord connecting him to his past in Mumbai, and is also a symbol of hope for the future.
I have childhood memories of clambering up a mango tree and trying to steal mangoes from my neighbour’s garden!
We could have a nice chilled glass of mango lassi, or even a mango cocktail
Oh we could indeed. I love fresh mango. Thank you so much for staying in with me to chat about Still Lives Reshma. I know I’ll love the book. Let me give readers a few more details.
‘The glow of my cigarette picks out a dark shape lying on the ground. I bend down to take a closer look. It’s a dead sparrow. I wondered if I had become that bird, disoriented and lost.’
Young, handsome and contemptuous of his father’s traditional ways, PK Malik leaves Bombay to start a new life in America. Stopping in Manchester to visit an old friend, he thinks he sees a business opportunity, and decides to stay on. Now fifty-five, PK has fallen out of love with life. His business is struggling and his wife Geeta is lonely, pining for the India she’s left behind.
One day PK crosses the path of Esther, the wife of his business competitor, and they launch into an affair conducted in shabby hotel rooms, with the fear of discovery forever hanging in the air. Still Lives is a tightly woven, haunting work that pulls apart the threads of a family and plays with notions of identity.
Shortlisted for the SI Leeds Literary Prize
Published on 29th June 2022, Still Lives is available for purchase here.
About Reshma Ruia
Reshma Ruia is an award-winning author and poet. She has a PhD and Master’s in Creative Writing from Manchester University, as well as a Bachelor and Master’s from the London School of Economics. Her first novel, Something Black in the Lentil Soup, was described in the Sunday Times as ‘a gem of straight-faced comedy’. She has published a poetry collection, A Dinner Party in the Home Counties, and a short story collection, Mrs Pinto Drives to Happiness; her work has appeared in international anthologies and journals, and she has had work commissioned by the BBC. She is the co-founder of The Whole Kahani – a writers’ collective of British South Asian writers. Born in India and brought up in Rome, her writing explores the preoccupations of those who possess a multiple sense of belonging.
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