Book Review: Cat & Fiddle by Lesley Jørgensen

Rating: ★★★★½

Cat and Fiddle is a witty tale of appearance and deception. Mrs Begum and her husband Dr Choudhury have moved to a small English village so he can advise on the restoration of nearby Bourne Abbey. Mrs Begum is fixated on marrying off her three children and engages the help of the manipulative matchmaker, Mrs Guri.

But it won’t be easy. Even the youngest, Shunduri, who is the most compliant and least “damaged” of the three – in her mother’s eyes anyway – is hiding a romantic entanglement from her mother. Rohimun, the elder daughter, is caught in a destructive relationship and son Tariq has apparently embraced a fundamentalist religious lifestyle. The Bourne family are equally snared in the delicate spider-web of centuries of upper-class tradition.

The story interweaves the staunch customs of English squires with the equally strong expectations of the immigrant Anglo-Bangladeshi community. A sharp eye is turned on the social frameworks of cultural expression and Jane Austen fans will recognise strong thematic links with a number of her works deconstructed into a cross-cultural narrative.

The joy of Cat & Fiddle is not so much in the ending, although that will certainly satisfy the discerning reader, but more in the delicate unfolding of the intricacies of the story. It comes highly recommended.

Lesley Jørgensen trained as a registered nurse while also completing simultaneous arts and law degrees, and has worked as a medical-negligence lawyer in Australia and England. While in England, she married into a Muslim Anglo–Bangladeshi family. She now lives in Adelaide with her two children. Cat & Fiddle is her first novel and it was the winner of the 2011 CAL Scribe Fiction Prize for an unpublished manuscript by an Australian writer aged 35 and over.

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