BOOK REVIEW – THE ONE HUNDRED FOOT JOURNEY

 

The Hundred Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais – Reviewed by David Edwards.

India Gate to Mumbai
India Gate to Mumbai

How many times have you become engrossed in a book described as a work of fiction and wondered if it were true or based upon truth; a biographical account loosely disguised as fiction? Such was my experience in reading The Hundred Foot Journey and this impression is derived from the ‘voice’ of the author who consistently appears culturally at ease, extremely well informed and familiar with the subtle social nuances that provide credibility. These of course are the hallmarks of an accomplished writer and never more so than with a work of fiction. The Hundred Foot Journey is a most cleverly crafted novel that is both convincing, engaging and a joy to read.Tiffan Delivery Mumbai

The Hundred Foot Journey was first published in 2008 and quickly became an international best seller. The film of the same name is now screening throughout Australia and has similarly received critical acclaim.

Tiffan Deliveries Mumbai

The Hundred Foot Journey can so easily be interpreted as non-fiction because the storyline and the circumstances in which it is set are so probable. The journey begins in Mumbai during World War 2 when this vast city became a staging post for Indian, American and British troops preparing to engage the Japanese then occupying Burma and many parts of Asia. Millions of troops passed through Mumbai and many of these, so this story goes, sampled the delights of Indian food in a makeshift ‘restaurant’ made of canvas and wood located on the Napean Sea Road. It was here grandfather Bapaji Haji established the foundation and future for his heirs. His drive and ambition was further amplified through his forceful, bombastic and quite eccentric son to build the business into a roaring success.Indian Food

The story is told through the eyes of Hassan Haji, grandson to the restaurant founder and one of six children. Hassan’s early life in Mumbai is a journey of exploration through pungent colourful spices, delicacies of every description from many parts of India, exotic fabrics, experience with racism and bigotry, exposure to extremes of poverty and affluence and witness to the odours foul and sweet associated with population densities experienced nowhere else on Earth. This rich tapestry and the close family structure guided by a domineering but caring father provides the schooling for Hassan that ultimately lead to a life far removed from the slums of Mumbai. Hassan’s interest in food soon become a passion that take him to the pinnacle of gastronomic achievement in France.Spice Markets Mumbai

The violent upheaval that followed the partition of India and which resulted in deadly conflict between Muslims and Hindus became a turning point for the Haji family. They fled to Europe in search of a new beginning. So began a long and frustrating search to re-establish the only business in which they excelled and understood; a restaurant specialising in the best of Indian cuisine. Wearied by their search and a sense of rejection caused by frequent racist taunts, the family finally settle in a quiet but beautiful alpine town in France; a town where Indian cuisine is unknown and a place where the delights of French gastronomy are revered. Here in this town, the core of The Hundred Foot Journey commences for immediately opposite the site selected for the Haji’s Indian restaurant sits a French restaurant renowned throughout France for classic French cuisine. So begins a long and bitter rivalry that embroils the Haji’s, the owner of the French restaurant and the local people. At the heart of the battle is Hassan and the events that unfold are life changing for all involved.

The Hundred Foot Journey is a warm, deeply satisfying story that explores the many complexities of relationships and highlights the absurdities and irrationalities that often lead to conflict. The Hundred Foot Journey is highly recommended.

The Hundred Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais is published by Pocket Books (New York, London, Toronto, Sydney, New Delhi) It is also Available from Amazon $3.90.