Jo Parfitt runs Summertime Publishing, the company that is publishing Perking the Pansies. I’m in safe hands. Jo is an accomplished and successful author, mentor, journalist and publisher with 27 books and hundreds of articles under her belt. Jo is nervous, but why? Well, she has just released her debut novel, Sunshine Soup, Nourishing the Global Soul. Anyone who’s poured their heart and soul into a book will empathise with Jo. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Booker prize contender or the writer of a production line penny romance, your labour of love will have you biting your nails until they bleed. I know. Mine are already bruised and bloodied.
Meet Maya, wife, mother of two and owner of a successful deli. Sunshine Soup whisks her away from her friends and a job she adores, to an uncertain life as an expat wife in Dubai. Next, transplant Maya into a fabulous new house, throw in an obsequious maid, send the teenage boys to school and the husband to work, add a potent mix of expat women and stir. What happens next is a colourful and poignant story of a woman who gradually grows into her strange new life but faces some difficult choices and uncomfortable questions along the way. Maya’s friendship with Barb, a colourful, experienced and seemingly confident expat wife, is a fascinating development. Things are not quite what they seem.
It’s impossible not to be drawn in to Sunshine Soup. The characters are strikingly drawn and developed, the plot is compelling and the exotic sights and sounds of Dubai form an evocative backdrop to a hugely enjoyable story of loss, intrigue and redemption.
“Maya picked up her coffee, slid the French doors aside, and stepped out. She would drink it slowly, savouring every mouthful. She rested her arms on the low balcony wall and looked out. Green parrots flitted between the palms and she heard their rough squawks as they dipped and rose. Inspired, her shoulders followed their lead. She raised each in turn coquettishly up towards her ears. Samir, the gardener, hunkered beside a squat palm, slicing away the lower fronds, now dry and pale, to reveal more of the emerging trunk. The blue water in the pool was smooth and glassy as the shadows shrank and the sun lifted towards what would undoubtedly be another beautiful day.”
More than anything, Maya’s story is believable. It is this reality that ultimately makes the novel an important addition to any bookshelf. And yes, there is an actual recipe for Sunshine Soup at the end of the book, along with 19 others – a very nice touch and some delicious recipes.
Tomorrow: an interview with Jo Parfitt