"By the end of this enjoyably breezy book it becomes clear that Ms. Farooki has been maneuvering her characters toward a major showdown. She contrives a twist of fate that will drag their hidden lives into the light. To her credit she does not make Bitter Sweets descend into either screwball revelations or angry ones. Despite its emphasis on deception, dislocation and the loss of love, her book retains a cheery consistency: It has managed to be sunnily devious from the start. And it delivers a refreshing message. Only by means of all their elaborate deceptions do these characters figure out who they really are."—Janet Maslin, The New York Times"A deceitful marriage in Calcutta sets in motion a rolling snowball of lies and double lives which will consume three generations of a single family. Tangled webs stretch from the Indian subcontinent to England in Farooki's debut, a comic novel in which a tendency toward deception infects most of the principal characters. Encouraged by her father, teenage Henna pretends to be older and smarter than she is to snare the affections of wealthy, worldly Rashid Karim. Once married, she reveals that she's 13 and illiterate. Later, having given birth to a daughter, Shona, Henna secretly aborts her subsequent pregnancies. At age 21, Shona elopes to England with her handsome Pakistani boyfriend Parvez. Rashid too begins a new life in the U.K., having found the love Henna never offered him in faded English rose Verity. When Shona uncovers her father's bigamy, the price of her silence is the cost of fertility treatment, thanks to which she gives birth to twins Omar and Sharif. Verity, meanwhile, gives Rashid a daughter, Candida. Chickens come home to roost after the children grow up. Shona, now conducting a secret affair with a colleague, causes Rashid to have a heart attack when he sees the couple together. At the hospital, Sharif meets Candida and falls in love with her, ignorant of the fact that she is his aunt. Bad behavior and dishonesty will eventually be forgiven and forgotten, however, in a sequence of tidy conclusions. What begins as sly charm fades into something less original and endearing in this confident, heavily themed but lightweight romantic comedy."—Kirkus Reviews"This sparkling, fresh debut follows three generations of a family caught up in the web of their own deceit. When scholarly Rashid weds beautiful Henna, he is surprised on their wedding night to learn she's not an accomplished 17-year-old but rather a lazy, illiterate 14-year-old who opted for marriage over education. He waits several years to consummate the union, then Henna gives birth to Shona, who quickly learns her parents' language of deception. Shona elopes with handsome Parvez and moves to London. At the same time, Rashid finds himself traveling to the same city on business, and when he meets Verity, a shy English woman in her late thirties, he sees a chance for the happiness that he's never found with Henna—even if it means weaving an intricate tangle of lies. Rashid, Henna, and Shona continue to deceive each other and their families for the next two decades, until Shona faces a midlife crisis that makes her question whether deceit really is the best policy. Farooki's vibrant characters leap off the page and straight into the imagination in this clever and intricate novel."—Kristine Huntley, Booklist (starred review)"Farooki's delightful debut novel commences in India, where Heena Rub and her father trick the Westernized and wealthy Ricky-Rashid Karim into marrying the illiterate Heena. Heena's initial deceit begets a string of deceptions that twists through succeeding generations. Daughter Shona continues the family tradition when she and her secret Pakistani boyfriend lie in order to elope and move to London. There they build a new life with twin sons Omar and Sharif. Shona remains complicit in maintaining the deceitful tradition until the expansive conspiratorial web of dishonesty and double lives threatens her sons' future. Farooki's tale almost spins out of control but finally remains true to the classical tradition of comedy, and all ends well. Along the way, Farooki entertains with witty language and lighthearted commentary on the South Asian immigrant experience. Readers expecting more lyrical writing and harder-hitting commentary should check out the likes of Salman Rushdie, Bharati Mukherjee, Arundati Roy, or Anita Desai, but with this work Farooki joins the rapidly growing ranks of talented South Asian writers writing in English."—Faye A. Chadwell, Library Journal"This multicultural comedy of manners stretches from the 1950s to the present. Nadim, a Bengali shopkeeper, comes from a long line of liars. His greatest deception has led to the marriage of his lazy, uneducated 13-year-old daughter into the wealthy Karim family of Calcutta. Henna, this child bride, is a manipulative, over-the-top adulteress. Duped groom Ricky-Rashid achieves his lifelong goals of becoming a successful businessman and finding true love late in life, but there's a catch: he becomes a guilt-ridden polygamist in the process. Aziz has had a crush on Henna since the beginning and takes over brother Ricky-Rashid's role as the caretaker of family land and becomes Henna's lover. Other members of the extended family include Shona, who elopes to London with a distant Punjabi relative; Omar, who is in the closet; and Dermot, who wants Shona to himself. Numerous other characters are witting and unwitting collaborators to deceits, secrets, and even ignorance. Through the comfortably flawed, self-deceptive, clandestine behavior of its characters, this novel achieves a level of human realism that is at once hilarious, intriguing, and achingly cringe-worthy. This is one confection that is as literarily satisfying as it is delectable."—Shannon Peterson, Kitsap Regional Library, Washington, School Library Journal"This rollicking debut from former London ad exec Farooki weaves an audacious network of lies as elaborate and brazen as the golden embroidery on [a] scarlet wedding sari. Henna, an illiterate 13-year-old Calcutta shopkeeper's daughter, is passed off as the educated 17-year-old daughter of a successful businessman in order to marry her into one of the city's best families. The lie reverberates deliciously through three generations of Henna's family: Farooki's witty narrative winds its way over some 50 years, moving Henna, husband Rashid (Ricky) and daughter Shona from Calcutta to Bangladesh, Pakistan and London, where Shona elopes and raises her twin boys above a confectioner's shop. Unflinching insights into Henna and others are well done, and allusions to literature and philosophy buoy them up. Farooki pulls off a lightly spun epic tale with effortless charm and more than enough delightful twists to keep pages turning. Even the characters' most unexpected and disastrous choices seem somehow inevitable, and one is quickly resigned to rooting for the wily woman at the center."—Publishers Weekly
Roopa Farooki was born in Lahore, Pakistan, and brought up in London. She graduated from New College, Oxford in 1995 and worked in advertising before writing fiction full time. Roopa now lives in North London and South West France with her husband and son.