The Arctic Curry Club – Dani Redd

Published By: Avon Books
Pages: 400
Released On: 09/12/2021

“For my whole life I had been looking for home. But why would that be in a place that I’d left? perhaps i had to keep moving forward in order to find it.”

Soon after upending her life to accompany her boyfriend Ryan to the Arctic, Maya realises it is not all Northern alights and husky sleigh rides. Instead, she is facing sub-zero temperatures, 24-hour darkness, crippling anxiety – and a distant boyfriend as a result.

In her loneliest moment, Maya opens her late mother’s recipe book and cooks Indian food for the first time. Through this, her confidence unexpectedly grows – she makes friends, secures a job as a chef, and life in the Arctic no longer freezes her with fear.

But there’s a cost: the aromatic cuisine rekindles memories of her enigmatic mother and her childhood in Bangalore. Can Maya face the past and forge a future for herself in this new town? After all, there’s now high demand for a Curry Club in the Arctic, and just one person with the know-how to run it.

*****

Thanks to Avon Books for my advanced copy of this title in return for an honest review.

I struggle to believe this is a debut novel. It is so accomplished that you could be forgiven for thinking this is the work of an author who has been publishing books for years.

I love Maya’s way of calming her anxiety by writing lists. I also have the tendency to overthink, and make a mountain out of a mole hill (where did that expression come from, I wonder?), and I find writing my worries down helps, if not to get rid of them, then to help me manage them.

The idea of the Arctic – or a holiday anywhere by the home of Father Christmas – really excites me, but maybe I underestimated just how hard it would be to live there. And yet, Dani describes it so beautifully with the snowfall and the northern lights, but doesn’t pretend it’s always so lovely, what with the snowstorms and roaming polar bears.

I might be able to bake, but I’d love to be able to cook like Maya does in this book – it clearly gives so much joy to people.

I personally didn’t like Maya’s boyfriend Ryan, right from the off. I found him selfish and self-centred and unempathetic (is that a word?) and just really irritating and he didn’t deserve Maya, who is so sweet.

It is so sensitive the way Dani has written about the tough topics such as anxiety, depression, death, suicide, grief, isolation, remarriage, break-ups, drug abuse, alcoholism, and culture differences. She never makes it over the top or purely for entertainment purposes. There’s a lot to contend with, but it is written so well that each has their appropriate place in the story.

I loved the stylistic choice of giving us Maya’s background through her discovering her own memories, instead of just presenting chapters titl3 ”20 years ago”; it means we discover as much as she does at the same time. I also like that (POTENTIAL MINOR SPOILER) Dani hasn’t gone down the typical rom-com route of making the girl fall at the feet of every eligible man. It is more about falling in love with yourself and believing in what you can do, and living happily ever after with yourself.

When I started this, I planned to read a few chapters then get some work down in the house, then read a bit more, then do dinner, then a bit more, then go to bed, ready to read some more the next morning. But no. I started it late one evening, and read until 2am so I didn’t have to put it down.

This review was featured on Twinkl as part of their Christmas campaign.

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