Polite Society

Putnam. Aug. 2019. 368p. ISBN 9780525539940. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780525539964. F
Witty, clever, and wise, this version of Jane Austen’s Emma provides insight into the lives of Delhi’s superwealthy. Ania Khurana, the only daughter of an old-money family, dabbles in various creative endeavors but really is a social butterfly, attending art openings and fancy parties. She’s been schooled in the ways of polite society and given opportunities to become more worldly, but cushioned by her family’s status, she totally lacks an understanding of the motivations of the people around her. She takes up matchmaking for fun and sets up new friend Dimple with a suitable partner. Austen’s sharp eye for hubris translates well to India’s elite and those who live on its periphery. Readers will enjoy the detailed descriptions of opulent wealth and extravagant pleasures of the Khurana family, even as Ania is stunned into the realization that the heart makes its own way.
VERDICT In his American debut (the author’s award-winning The Smoke Is Rising and One Point Two Billion were previously released in the UK), Rao delivers a story deserving of the same popularity as Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians. A great choice for Austenites, fans of classic retellings, and general fiction. [See Prepub Alert, 2/4/19.]

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