Ayra Krishnamoorty studied to be an art historian but ends up being an investment banker with the sort of life most people would envy. A fancy job that makes her the big bucks, a loving family, the mandatory single girl’s pet—a cat, a stylish South Bombay best friend, a devoted boyfriend, Kartik, the perfect life. Or so one would imagine until you read ahead and the cracks appear. Her job involves long hours that ensure no phone call with her boyfriend moves beyond pleasantries, which is why she doesn’t even notice the signs of a proposal and engagement, all going on, under her very nose. And all this in the middle of a very high profile deal that takes her to Italy to buy a vineyard.
Ishaan Malhotra, heir to the empire, her client, is a good looking hunk, who blows hot and cold, adding to her guilt as well as her rather complicated love life. Sandeep, her appropriately smarmy boss expects her to be on top of the deal but she begins to get the feeling that inspite of being given the royal tour from vineyard to cellar, the action is elsewhere.
The four-day due diligence tour turns into a fortnight of wine tasting and long drives around the beautiful Tuscan countryside, which is not exactly conducive to her personal relationships, and so it all begins to unravel.
They say every author’s first book is semi autobiographical and it comes as no surprise that the author too was a journalist who went on to do an MBA, and was an investment banker for a number of years before travel and the written word lured her back. Her depiction of a Tam Bram household is bang on the money and she creates a warm, loving, real family with its share of quirks. Even the boyfriend, Kartik, is a very three-dimensional character with aspects to his character that warm you to him. Narina, her best friend, the supposedly vapid socialite, shows depth, strength of character and loyalty.
Which is why it comes as a surprise that the two main characters are rather uni-dimensional, inspiring neither empathy nor interest.
One is a little disappointed in the many references to her Prada shoes and his Rolex watch, making her come across as even more materialistic than she herself confesses to being when justifying her career move from art history to investment banking (to afford fancy shoes!).
In fact her references to graduating from Allen Solly business wear to silk blouses are unlikely to endear her to the very audience she seeks to woo for the book.
It also makes one wonder how much of a role money and social status played in breaking up her relationship with the advertising professional and band manager childhood sweetheart who is romantic, loving, considerate and intelligent, and being attracted to Mr Money Bags. This again, because through the length of the novel Ishaan comes across as a rich kid (at sea over the acquisition deal) with little else to recommend him than his good looks. A great recommendation for many I am sure, but not one you look for in the hero of your novel. Not once does he redeem himself and give you an Aha-so-that’s-what-she-sees-in-him moment.
Barshikar is an intelligent writer and is it more than apparent in her many references to music, wine and history.
The descriptions of the warm Italian countryside are as authentic and interesting as those of the humble Tam Bram kitchen. Her background in investment banking holds her in good stead as she leads you through the intricacies of due diligence and acquiring a company. Yet, at just under 400 pages, the story could have done with fewer of those details, particularly since few readers are on first name basis with Blackstone and shareholder agreements.
At the end of it all though, I must say my sympathy, love and interest lay with the vastly more interesting, lovable character, Kartik. Can we have a novel about him, next, please?!