Just perfect for a summer read, The Dancing Maharani is an enigmatic collection of short stories about the migration and lives of south Asian women.

This compelling book is reminiscent of what all our mothers went through after travelling from south Asia to the UK, portrayed through magic realism.

The reader can't helped but be pulled into the lives of these enchanting yet normal women.

The first story in the collection, Good Buys, delightfully transports the reader to 1979 in the UK.

The story follows a widow and her two daughters travelling to India and an unexpected stopover in Kabul where the younger daughter receives a surprise marriage proposal in exchange for 12 camels. Her older sister responds, “You will have to make a better offer. My sister is not very good at cooking and cleaning, but as you said, she looks like a film actress. I will need a lot more than twelve camels and I will need to inspect them first.”

Author Ranjit Kaur goes on to present a panoramic social history of the lives our mothers and grandmothers lived intertwined with themes of self-fulfilment and empowerment.

The dancing Maharani herself gains a sense of validation after finally being allowed to dance in public at the age of eighty.

There’s the delightful story of the women who indulge in whiskey and parathas in the clandestine safety of a local sauna. Kaur mentions that, like many of our mothers and their social circles, “They were unlikely friends, but the UK did funny things to entrenched Indian stereotypes.”

One can only marvel admiringly when reading the various sensitive depictions of relationships between women, be they friends, sisters or mothers and daughters.  

In the story, The Tiger in the Trunk, the daughter of the protagonist says, “My mother is at pains to point out that it is against her religion to tell lies. However, she asserts that it is part of the makeup of every Indian woman to add masala to a story.”

It's utterly enchanting how her sentiments resonate.

Throughout the book there are comments made that we can all relate such as this scathing gem from a matriarch to her daughter-in-law, which is every mother’s nightmare, “Did your parents not teach you anything?”

When one man peremptorily ends an argument with the very telling statement, “This is the problem with your kind. You may be aristocracy in India, but here you are nothing,” the second generation south Asian reader nods internally knowing exactly why this is being said.

Each story in the collection is an engrossing portrait of the women's lives, vivaciously written and powerfully evoked.

The Dancing Maharani is relevant, entertaining and most certainly a book to cherish.

The Dancing Maharani By Ranjit Kaur was published 15 June 2019 is available at all good bookshops and online outlets in paperback and ebook.