Best Intentions is gripping, fast paced, and well written Indian contemporary with many layers and themes that readers of the genre and fans of Indian fictions will enjoy.
Best Intentions by Simran Dhir
Publication Date : 30 October 2021
Publisher : HarperCollins India
Genre : Contemporary
Pages : 356
Tea for this book – White Tea
Disclaimer – I received this book as part of Blogchatter Book Review Program, in exchange for honest review. Many thanks to blogchatter and publisher.
‘Lawyer-turned-author Simran Dhir’s debut novel is the exciting airport read we often need in our lives.’ — The Telegraph’This sharp, acute and accomplished debut novel … carries deep insights into human relationships and the social schisms and fault lines that surround us.’ — Namita Gokhale
Gayatri Mehra is tired of her parents trying to find her a suitable husband. She would much rather focus on the history journal she edits and leave the happily-ever-after to Nandini and Amar, her newly married sister and brother-in-law. But when the journal faces pressure to fall in line from the right-wing SSP, headed by a corrupt godman, Gayatri is forced to seek help from Akshay Grewal, Amar’s brother and elder son of lawyer-turned-politician Gyan Singh Grewal. Gayatri finds Akshay arrogant and unprincipled; he thinks she is naive and self-righteous.
Enter Vikram Gera, a self-made banker willing to go to any lengths to break into Delhi’s elite circles, even if it means stringing Gayatri along. As Gayatri and Akshay come together to salvage the situation at the journal, they realize that their siblings’ marriage is coming undone.Politics, ambition and hard truths collide, and familial bonds are tested. But as they navigate this complex world, Akshay and Gayatri learn that while some things can’t be fixed, love often finds a way.
Best Intentions is a sharply observed and compulsively readable novel of manners marking the arrival of an accomplished new voice.
Best Intentions is interesting and gripping contemporary that revolves around Gayatri and Akshay’s family and their growing bond with their increasing family issues that turn their dislike for each other to love. The story is about Indian politics, culture, family pressure and expectations, problems in marriage, love, prejudice, family drama, trust, and betrayal.
The writing is captivating, lucid, and fast paced. The story is written in third-person narrative that switches fast between Gayatri, Akshay, Neelam, and Vikram but mainly follows Gayatri and Akshay. The setting of Delhi adds its own flavor to the story.
The plot is character driven. I liked the beginning that introduced both Mehra and Grewal family connected by recent marriage of Nandini (Gayatri’s younger sister) and Amar (Akshay’s younger brother), Gayatri’s job as editor of Indian history journal, Gayatri and Akshay’s thoughts about each other, parental pressure on Gayatri to get married, and meeting Vikram through family arrangement who is determined to get into elite circle using Gayatri.
There is lot going on at the same time but the main focus was on Gayatri and Vikram’s meetings, Vikram’s agenda, problems in Nandini and Amar’s marriage, and how Gayatri and Akshay’s view towards each other slowly change as they meet more for threats Gayatri is receiving at workplace and Nandini and Amar’s marriage issues.
It was interesting to see when Gayatri will see through Vikram, how they will get solutions of threats, when they both will be aware of their feelings about each other and what they will do about it, and if it’s possible for them to be together with growing issues between Nandini and Amar.
Both Gayatri and Akshay are most likable. They are developed but also have their flaws and vulnerability. It was easy to empathize with Gayatri. She is smart, headstrong, self-righteous, and compassionate person who loves her family and will do anything for them, even go along with meeting boys for marriage even though she didn’t want to. I liked her for switching career for her love for history and never taking offense of jibes she kept receiving from relatives and family who couldn’t understand her decision. I loved her unwavering support to her sister even when she didn’t agree with Nandini’s decisions.
She isn’t all perfect. While she is proud of her work that supports left-wing system, and supports what is backed by historical records at the same time she also has limited experience of real world that is outside her elite circle. She has preconceived views towards right-wing system and also have hard time accepting records cannot be always true as they too are manmade. I loved how meeting Akshay changed her view, made her see not everything is white and black but there is lots of greys the world is made of.
I liked Akshay more in second half of the book. He is like Mr Darcy in this story. At first he looked arrogant, unprincipled criminal lawyer, blindly obeying son who wouldn’t question his father’s command. But as story progressed and as he spend more time with Gayatri he started to question what he did. Of course, he wasn’t going to change his career but we can see the change in him by refusing to be part of his father’s schemes and unscrupulous people in his circle. He had terrible past that brought complicated relationships in his life. I liked how he got over that past and could bring closure to it. I loved him most for his support to Nandini and understanding her when nobody will and being first to forgive her.
There are many characters and they all are realistic, some relatable, and intricately connected with each other. There is surprisingly more focus on Nandini and Amar’s marriage issues, politics, and power game than Gayatri and Akshay. It also gives lot do discuss in the book with many layers and themes making a simple looking story a little complicated.
I liked the layer of marital issues whether it’s love or arranged through Nandini’s character. I could connect with her. Not because of her actions but her struggle with new family and her thoughts. I could understand her feelings. Being an independent and intelligent girl that comes from different family than her inlaws sure would have hard time to adjust and even more when there is no boundaries and sense of privacy and freedom. Moreover, Amar is typical Indian male who is free to do anything and believes it’s wife’s duty to do this and that, keep his parents happy and all. He was anything but understanding and his actions showed he didn’t love or respect Nandini as much as he should. They kept fighting than getting any solution and in the end Nandini’s actions aren’t that shocking. I don’t exactly agree with what she did at the end but at the same time, like Akshay, I believe she has been brave in doing so and I respect her decision as I believe it’s ultimately woman’s choice what to do with her body and should have right to walk out of unhappy relationship.
Politics and power games take large portion of the book. I’m not huge politics fan but it is interesting to read about left and right-wing system and different views on Indian history. That debate between Gayatri and Anil Bhargava near the end is best part. It shows not everything is black and white and not everyone can be slot into right or wrong. There is another layer of parental interference and pressure that we see in both families. It made me question why parents insist on marrying their girls off when they all know there is no guarantee of happiness and it’s not worth to stay married for safety and security that one can get being independent.
This is hate to love romance but that is sidetracked by themes and layers so I wouldn’t say romance is big part of the story. I wish Akshay and Gayatri had more chapters together.
There are good twist and turns especially in last 20-30% of the book. Some I could see coming while some I couldn’t. I was shocked by Vikram’s behavior in climax and also couldn’t believe Gayatri can be this foolish. I anticipated what will happen with election tickets but not everything that happened after it. everything is wrapped up smoothly. End is satisfying, uplifting, and hopeful.
Why 4 stars-
Like I said there isn’t many chapters with Akshay and Gayatri together. Even that Vikram got more space with Gayatri than Akshay. I would have liked more focus on them and would have liked to see how they convinced their family in the end.
Overall, Best Intentions is captivating, dramatic, fast-paced and well written contemporary with many layers and themes.
I recommend this if you like,
theme of politics, power game, marital issues
Character driven story
less focus on main characters and romance
Good book club read
Indian culture and setting
Thank you for reading! Let’s chat..,
What do you think about book and review?
Have you read this or added to TBR?
Which is your favorite Indian contemporary?
Just in case you missed–
Sign up to receive email whenever I publish new post-