Title : Tender Hooks / Duty Free
Author : Moni Mohsin
Publisher : Randon House India / Random House UK, 2011 / 2012
Pages : 256
Genre : Fiction / Chick lit / Satire
My Rating : 9/10
Reviewed For : Chicklit Club
"Duty Free" (originally released as "Tender Hooks") is a follow-up to Moni Mohsin's "The Diary of a Social Butterfly". Honestly, I had not read "The Diary of a Social Butterfly" & I picked up its sequel on a whim!! And after reading the first page, I was bewildered, because the author had written it in a style, that was full of malaprops. Now if you look up for the meaning of "malaprop" in a dictionary, it says - The unintentional misuse of a word by confusion with one that sounds similar. But once you start this book, you will realise that Mohsin has "intentionally" filled the narration with misspellings and used a language that is a cross between English & Urdu. But that, my dear friend, is the most enjoyable part of this novel,undoubtedly. At the beginning, it is a bit difficult to understand, but as you start getting the hang of it, you will clearly fall for it hook, line & sinker...
So meet Butterfly, our unnamed heroine, who is the quintessential privileged class with an absolute preoccupation for designer labels in Lahore, Pakistan. This novel is in the form of diary entries (something which reminds you of Bridget Jones but let me assure you that the similarity ends here) narrating the peppered happenings of her life – from her bore “Oxen” (read: Oxford educated) husband to the overblown kitty parties & wedding season to the fierce competition in her social life. She receives the charge (more like she is emotionally manipulated) from her Aunt Pussy : to quickly find a suitable (read : rich, fair, beautiful, old-family type) match for her hapless cousin Jonkers (who is not exactly marriage material - plain, shy & already divorced) which is ironic since Butterfly’s own marriage is on the rocks. However, taking all this in her stride, Butterfly shinnies her way through the dangerous territories i.e. the Pakistani wedding circuit in search of the right girl from the right “bagground”. What ensues is a series of humorous upshots as she encounters a Smith educated lesbian, fundamentalist parents & drug smuggling families as a potential brides & in-laws. To top it all, our protagonist has to look out for backstabbing frenemies, errant maidservants & beardo weirdos (suicide bombers) who are out to spoil her matrimonial mission.
In a way, Butterfly might remind you of Jane Austen’s Emma - a clueless socialite matchmaker, who believes she can make marriages happen & a man who loves her despite her shallowness. I particularly loved the honest portrayal of the protagonist which made her neither the perfect heroine nor a villain.
Another highlight of this novel is that it is sharply satirical but even with the satire, the book tickles your funny bone. Each chapter begins with headlines from the local newspaper which gives a kaleidoscope view of the social, political, and economic upheaval in Pakistan. Also, you will laugh out loud at the various nicknames the author uses throughout the narration. Between you, me and the four walls, this is an absolutely witty, funny & thought-provoking romp.