THIS novel is about Tansy Harris who despite a strong marriage, two beautiful children, freelance work which she wants to do and not because she has to, security of every sort, fears that she is in for a breakdown. It is at such moments that she feels that it had never been this bad before and that “I am going to die. I need him to call the ambulance. I am leaving my body, slipping away. I am vaguely aware that I am falling down and choking on nothing and having a heart attack. I am taking myself out of my life.”
Suddenly she comes to her senses and reality dawns upon her. She is a feather-brained and terrible mother – the kind who forgets to pick up her children from school, the kind who drinks half a bottle of wine at lunchtime, the kind who contemplates an affair with her son’s teacher.
She reaches Chennai and describes it in her mail to Max as an experience of “being hit in the face by a spice-scented hairdryer set too hot.” She goes around Chennai and to Pondicherry, picturing in her mind “a white sandy beach with rows of pastel bungalows, palm trees swaying in the sea breeze, clear water, fusion cuisine. Reality is different but, somehow, it is better and more intense than I imagined.” She finds Pondicherry “is not just another Indian town: the roads are colonial and stately, some of them still bearing their French names; the seafront buildings are grand in places and the atmosphere is fearsomely relaxed.”
She enjoys her trip to a number of cities in India which she finds incredible, everything and more, just as she had hoped it to be. But here she meets an old backpacker friend who has joined a cult in the south and lifts the lid on something terrifying. And the moment Tansy realises she’s in the wrong place at the wrong time, she finds it is too late to do anything.
Anyhow she returns to London to the waiting arms of her husband Max.
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