Author: Betsy Woodman
Publication Date: July 17, 2012
Publisher: Holt Paperbacks
Series: 1st book, not sure of the series title
Source: Amazon Vine (ARC)
Jana Bibi's Excellent Fortunes is the first in a series about a Scottish lady living in India in the 1960s. Janet Laird, aka Jana Bibi, is a Scot by nationality but grew up in India and has Indian citizenship. She inherits a property from her grandfather and moves to a charming Indian village despite the protestations of her son, Jack, who lives in Scotland and wants her to move there. Jana, her housekeeper, Mary, and the parrot, Mr. Ganguly, soon discover that the town is in danger of being destroyed in favor of a dam built by the government. Can they work together with their neighbors to put the town of Hamara Nagar on the map as a tourist destination to prevent its demise?
Betsy Woodman draws upon her unique childhood experience growing up in India for her debut novel. She has introduced the reader to an interesting cast of characters and painted the scene for future stories set in Hamara Nagar. It takes a bit for the story in Jana Bibi's Excellent Fortunes to really start moving and I was beginning to wonder when the fortune telling part would actually come into play. Once the characters are introduced, however, and their roles are fairly firmly established the actual plot line of the book does begin to move.
I found that Betsy Woodman's writing reminded me of Alexander McCall Smith both in the way that their stories are set in foreign lands and also the pace of their novels. Both authors include many local phrases and foreign words while including so many details about the setting and time period that you are really transported to that place. I always preferred McCall Smith's books on audio so I could hear the unfamiliar words being pronounced. I think Jana Bibi's Excellent Fortunes would be a fantastic audiobook as well, with the right narrator.
Overall, I found Jana Bibi and the rest of the characters to be charming. This was a nice, light summer read that was easy to pick up and put down as time allowed. I'm looking forward to more stories about these characters in Hamara Nagar and wonder what their futures hold.