Denise's Reviews > Chef

Chef by Jaspreet Singh
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May 28, 10

Read from May 16 to 26, 2010

This novel is set in the recent past in Kashmir. I have to confess that before reading the book, I knew almost nothing of the history of Kashmir. Today I saw a film on "Independent Lens" on public television called "Project Kashmir". The film was made by two American women, one Muslim and one Hindu, who took a film crew to Kashmir. The film helped me understand the ongoing conflict there and the setting of the book.

The story is told by Kip Singh, a Sikh, as a series of reminiscences as he takes a train trip back to Kashmir after an absence of 14 years. As a young man, Kip was a chef in the Indian military. His first post was as an assistant chef to General Kumar, the chief of the Indian Army's northern command. Kip works under Chef Kishen, the head chef.

The novel explores the ways in which religious conflict disrupts lives. During the story, you meet characters from both sides of the conflict and come to understand why they feel and act the way they do. I think that Singh (the author) is trying to show that we have more in common than not, a view that would be of use in many parts of the world where such conflicts exist. The unanswered question in the story concerns the events surrounding Kip's abrupt resignation from the military 14 years before.

My favorite things about the book were the descriptions of the food (food was practically a character in the book and I wished I knew more about the food of the region) and the descriptions of Kashmir - Kip loves both.

The book has a really melancholy tone befitting the senseless violence of the region. I kept hoping that Kip would find some measure of happiness, but I'm not sure that he ever did. I liked the book in spite of its atmosphere of sadness - there was beauty in Singh's depiction of the culture and landscape.
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