Member Review

Cover Image: The Arctic Curry Club

The Arctic Curry Club

Pub Date:

Review by

Reviewer 784451

My Recommendation

4.5/5 stars rounded up.

British-Indian Maya is almost 30 and lives with debilitating anxiety. It has dictated her life for as long as she can remember, even causing her to give up on her dream career: cheffing. Her boyfriend, Ryan, has been offered a coveted research position in the Arctic. Maya agrees to upend her life and accompany him, but soon discovers she has much more than the freezing temperatures and constant darkness to contend with. In Longyearbyen, Maya is forced to confront her relationships with the people she loves, places she is connected to, her anxiety, her identity, and her tragic, forgotten past.

The Arctic Curry Club is a fabulous debut from Dani Redd. I really enjoyed how intricately she wove examinations of attachments and anchors, to people, place and identity, throughout the story. It was beautifully layered, like a recipe. 

Redd's anxiety writing was probably the most authentic (to my own experience, at least) that I've read to date, to the point where I had to take a few breathers here and there. I did not see this as a negative, though, rather the opposite. For me, the best fiction brings to the surface things to process.


*****Spoilers*******

I did predict early on that Ryan would end up being some sort of rat...but I had <i>such a visceral reaction</i> to the scene where Maya walks in on him and Astrid that I felt like I was really there myself. My ears burned up, my heart felt like it would beat its way out, I sweated buckets...I actually had to turn off the recording! I don't remember ever feeling like this reading a novel! Amazing writing! 

I also really appreciated that Redd did not let Maya blindly fall into the arms of the next kind guy who came along in Jobin and that they developed a warm friendship following their brief fling. It would have been easy to give her the "Mr Right" ever-after and I was happy that Maya's character was allowed to explore who she was as an individual by the end of the story instead.

******Spoilers end*********


I am a huge fan of food in fiction and so I adored every scene where Maya was cooking, exploring or tasting food or ingredients. I thought the flashbacks to her childhood when tasting food were an interesting element and I was glad it wasn't overdone to the point of feeling like magical realism. The 2 personal recipes included by Dani Redd at the end were a lovely gift and a wonderful touch - I am greatly looking forward to trying them.

Being British and mixed-race myself, I identify strongly with stories where mixed heritage is a central theme. I very much appreciate the feeling of being both and neither at the same time, feeling like a ship without a dock. Redd connects 3 seemingly incompatible corners of the world naturally and seamlessly through Maya. By the end, I had the same wonderful feeling of connection I have when I'm language learning, to people and places I have never met.

I also really enjoyed learning all about the realities of the human existence in a place as seemingly uninhabitable as Svalbard. It really highlighted everything we take for granted, particularly when complaining about the weather!

If I have one small bugbear: considering that I am a similar age, I thought that Maya's character was childish outside of her anxiety, at some points. I did not enjoy the lists that popped up every so often in place of narrative description. I found it a little lazy and it put me in mind of the types of books I read when I was 13!

Overall, The Arctic Curry Club is an intricate examination of what it means to move through and past trauma, and the unbelievable capabilities we all have when we find circumstances we are allowed to thrive in. 

Many thanks to NetGalley, HarperCollins UK and Dani Redd for an ARC audio recording of The Arctic Curry Club in exchange for an honest review.

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