The Sari Shop by Rupa Bajwa

About the book

Ramchand, a tired shop assistant in Sevak Sari House in Amritsar, spends his days patiently showing yards of fabric to the women of “status families” and to the giggling girls who dream of dressing up in silk but can only afford cotton. When Ramchand is sent to show his wares to a wealthy family preparing for their daughter’s wedding, he is jolted out of the rhythm of his narrow daily life. His glimpse into a different world gives him an urgent sense of possibility. And so he attempts to recapture the hope that his childhood had promised, arming himself with two battered English grammar books, a fresh pair of socks, and a bar of Lifebuoy soap. But soon these efforts turn his life upside down, bringing him face to face with the cruelties on which his very existence depends.

Reviewed by Waterlooville Reading Group:

Excellent, evocative, realistic, colourful first novel. It brought the sights, smells, sounds and feelings of Northern India to brighten our English winter.

Star rating: ***

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9 thoughts on “The Sari Shop by Rupa Bajwa”

  1. Review by The Benches Reading Group:
    Rupa Bajwa’s first novel, although some members felt it was ‘going nowhere’ is a sympathetic portrayal of an ‘underclass’ in India restricted to their status through lack of education and therefore financial poverty and the ensuing disillusionment in their life. A thought provoking novel with theft, rape, murder and corruption in the newly wealthy democratic India.
    Star rating: **

  2. Review Eastleigh Library Wednesday Group Reading Group:
    Thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and engaged with the story right from the beginning. Ramchand’s story is one of great perseverance. After loosing his parents he is brought up by a relative and misses out on his chance to attend a good school and learn English. He sticks with his routine job at the sari shop for 11 years and living in one, not very comfortable room. His determination to learn English by buying second-hand books and reading them is borne out by his attempt to start reading an English dictionary starting from A and taking each word at a time. A very readable book.
    Star rating: ***

  3. Review by Shipton Bellinger WI Reading Group:
    A side of India not often seen in novels. At times funny, at time heartbreaking.
    Star rating: ***

  4. Review White Lion, Yateley Reading Group:
    Well written but depressing novel which brought the injustice of Indian life into focus. The middle section was somewhat violent and distressing. The cover was misleading.
    Star rating: **

  5. Review Arle Reading Group:
    The first time we’re all agreed. The simplicity fo the language reflected everyday life. The social strata seemed to be prevented in a realistic way.
    Star rating: ****

  6. Review by Stubbington Book Ends Reading Group:
    Good descriptive writing with colourful characters, really captured the mood of an Indian city. Although at times dreadfully sad the whole group thoroughly enjoyed this book.
    Star rating: ****

  7. Review by Fareham 5:30 reading group:
    This book provoked a strong reaction in us… we liked the way the Sari Shop was described and how it was the mechanism for bringing the characters together. But we found the story sad, showing the hopelessness of the life of the shop workers. We wondered by Bajwa had told this story – interviews say she is angry about life in this part of India, but did the story have to be so bleak?
    Rating: ***

  8. Review by Goodworth Clatford WI Reading Group
    Mixed reviews – lack of a substantial plot led to a somewhat limited discussion. Opened a window on Indian culture.
    Rating: ***

  9. Review by KYC Reading Group
    A most interesting story, well told with pace – each character clearly drawn. One could hear the sounds and arrive at an exciting although depressing picture of life. In many ways a shocking tale of aspiration and hopelessness.
    *** 3 stars

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