The Arctic Curry Club, by Dani Redd: the perfect winter heart-warmer!

Maya moves to the Arctic to accompany her boyfriend, Ryan, as he embarks on some very important scientific research to do with tracking polar bears. She has left a life in London including friends, a job, and her own home, to come to a land that’s in perpetual darkness and sub-zero temperatures, and she finds the move harder than she ever imagined she would. Maya starts to experience panic attacks again for the first time in a while and struggles to get out of bed or leave the house for fear of getting lost in the snow.

There was an old radio station, which had been converted into a luxury hotel, somewhere out there. And a Soviet ghost town, in Svalbard there was a rule that you weren’t allowed to demolish anything. Abandoned trappers’ huts, explorers’ camps, defunct mines – they were all still here, slowly degrading in the wind and being covered over by snow and ice. An archipelago of ghosts.

The Arctic Curry Club

In India, Maya’s father is about to get married and when Maya goes to visit for the wedding, she is given her late mother’s cookbook. Following her mother’s death when Maya was eight, her father took her to live and grow up in London and, as a result, Maya grew up feeling that she didn’t really belong in India but also didn’t really fit in in the UK.

When Maya returns to the Arctic and starts cooking her mother’s recipes, and as winter starts to fade with the light gradually coming back, Maya starts to find her feet on the ice. Unfortunately, Ryan’s feet may have taken him off somewhere else.

I thought this book was so vivid in its descriptions of the snow-covered, freezing cold Arctic with its isolation and ‘no one will hear you scream’ vibes, to the contrasting brightness and loudness of India. I love books that take you round the globe and this does just that.

The air conditioning in Uma’s car was faulty so I cranked open the windows and inhaled a lungful of warm, particulate-laced air. At least there was plenty to look at. In front of us a woman in a burka cut a red light on her bicycle, narrowly avoiding the traffic streaming towards her. the moto scooter next to me wobbled under the weight of a family of four. Men swarmed the pavements outside a tea stall, drinking from paper cups and smoking cigarettes, while school kids queued for chaat sold by a street vendor from a tin pail. I felt ashamed to be looking at a place I had once called home with the eyes of a foreigner…

The Arctic Curry Club

I also thought the book explored the themes of identity and finding where your home is so well. There’s a range of interesting characters who have found themselves out in the Arctic for one reason or another, whether they like the extremes of the weather, the isolation that it provides or the sense of escape. The book also delves into mental health and anxiety and how hard it can be to recover from childhood trauma.

Also, the food. Long-time readers of the blog will know that I love descriptions of good food in books. This book does not, as the title suggests, disappoint.

Over the next hour, I did my best. I fried onions, garlic, and ginger, then added chopped tomatoes. Pureed and strained the mixture. Added a hefty dollop of butter, and a small splash of cream, then honey, to offset the acidity of the tomato. The I focussed on the spicing. At first, I was conservative, adding just a level teaspoon of each. But after tasting the sauce I knew I had to be more generous. I doubled, then tripled the quantities. Sealed the chicken in another pan, then added it to the simmering sauce.

The Arctic Curry Club

This was a warm and uplifting story about finding happiness and somewhere to call home even if it is somewhere you had thought was inhospitable. It’s full of friendship, humour, and good food. It has to be read, and I mean has to be read, with a steaming hot bowl of butter chicken.

Published by luggageandscribble

Oh hey, just a girl who loves reading.

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