ARC Review: Polite Society by Mahesh Rao

Polite SocietyPolite Society by Mahesh Rao
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Beautiful, clever, and very slightly bored, Ania Khurana has Delhi wrapped around her finger. When Ania finds love for her spinster aunt, she realizes her potential as a force for good.

For her next match, Ania sets her sights on Dimple: her newest, sweetest, and, sure, poorest friend. But her good intentions may be misdirected, and when her aunt’s handsome new nephew arrives from America, the social tides in Delhi begin to shift. Surrounded by money old and new, navigating gossip, scheming, and an unforgettable cast of journalists, socialites, gurus, and heirs, Ania discovers that when you aim to please the human heart, things seldom go as planned.

Warnings: sexual assault, purging

Note: Not a YA novel

Adapting Emma into modern India was a such a excellent concept, and in the start, I loved how the author placed the various characters of the original into their modern equivalents. The setting of high society Delhi is also quite perfect, with the addition of contemporary political nuances into the characters’ storylines, as well as how social media would transform such a story. The story starts with focusing on Ania’s point of view, but with the third person perspective we also see the other characters’ lives, backstories, and how they react to the society they live in. From the setting point of view, I was delighted with the depiction of life, the satirical view of the elite, the terseness with which some social issues are discussed in the context of extravagance. Having a rounded view of the character motivations was a welcome addition, because it takes us away from the banal and gives us an introspective view of them.

The storyline takes it cues from Emma, so obviously that will be a point of discussion. It hits the main beats of the story – like Ania’s efforts to play matchmaker for her friend Dimple, trying to steer her away from what she thinks is a disastrous affection to Ankit, and instead towards a charming journalist, Fahim, or the embarrassing incident she causes in which Dev reprimands her, or her realizing that she doesn’t know everything. There are also other additions, like this whole storyline about Ania’s father Dileep’s personal struggles, Ania’s writers retreat which she gets into through her connections, some subtle allusions to Jane Eyre in one particular character’s story. The storyline felt more together in the beginning, with all the players on the same board, so as to say, and then their stories diverge from each other, occasionally intersecting as the book peters out to a quiet ending. And this is exactly why this book has a lower rating from me – the second half felt so slow, and while it was more invested in each character’s story arc, the long jumps between each character served to only further distance the reader from them. The tone of the book also becomes more sombre – where Emma has humor and lightness, Polite Society just becomes dismal as it plods along towards its ending. It was a case of a brilliant start and a slow decline.

Is it diverse? Set in India, and written by an Indian diaspora author

Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from G.P. Putnam’s Sons, via Edelweiss.

View all my reviews

Buy links

The Book Depository | Wordery

Releases on August 20, 2019

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One thought on “ARC Review: Polite Society by Mahesh Rao

  1. Great, honest review. It’s always such a shame when a book kind of loses its momentum halfway through and you have to push the rest of the way. I love the concept of this book, but I’m not sure the execution sounds like something I’d be into.

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