The Colour of Love by Preethi Nair tells the story of Nina, the daughter of Indian immigrants living in London who, despite chafing against her parents' traditional expectations for her (finding a good husband from the Indian community, excelling at her high-powered job), is conforming to the life designed by her parents. The twist, and what drives many of the humorous scenarios in the story, is that she actually is not leading that life. At the opening of the book, she is secretly engaged to a non-Indian man and harbors dreams of leaving her job as an attorney and doing what she loves - painting. Ultimately, she does leave her job but she hides that fact from her parents, leaves the home she shares with them every morning dressed in a suit and heads to her studio to paint. As this deception continues and her cover-up stories get more elaborate, Nina starts to uncover what she really wants in life and is challenged to figure out how she can get it. Interestingly, this storyline parallels that of the author - she was working as a management consultant when she made the decision to leave the corporate world and pursue her dream of writing her novel. Like Nina she led a double life instead of admitting to her parents that she had chosen a different path. You can read more about Preethi Nair at her website.
Despite fitting nicely into the chick lit genre, this book actually deals with some heavier themes - the theme that resonated in particular for me was being the child of immigrants and the pressure to live up to high expectations which often comes for those of us who are 1st generation. My parents immigrated here and worked tirelessly to give my brother and I everything they never had and all they thought the "new world" promised. With that, however, they expected us to excel academically and pursue careers in traditional professions where they felt we wouldn't struggle the way they had in their blue collar jobs. Nina's parents expect the same of her. Nina describes being the daughter of immigrants this way:
Maybe loving us didn't even enter into the equation. It was all about keeping us clothed and fed and doing his best to do his duty and this was, for him, loving us . . .Happiness was a luxury, an expectation, you weren't supposed to be happy, you were supposed to get on with it and try to make the best of every situation . . . Maybe that is what happens when you are forced to move continents and come to a foreign place; you become incredibly practical and don't get attached to anything again, not even your child.
This quote is pretty damning of her parents - her father in particular. Of course, it is not as black and white as this and much of Nina's struggle lies in the fact that, although she may not agree with the her how her parents think she should live her life, she desperately wants to please them and make sure their sacrifices were worth it. Despite his high expectations and the difficulties that presents for Nina, her father actually provides much of the comic relief throughout the novel - his expressions are very funny. In fact, he reminds me of the father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding (remember how he thought a spritz of Windex could cure anything)?
This book is very smart and funny and the author has done a great job of creating a character in Nina about which the reader really cares. You want to keep reading about how she will reconcile the life her parents want for her and the life she wants for herself. I also love the fact that the story so closely parallels that of the author. I would definitely recommend this one!