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Customer Reviews

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on 24 June 2012
Like some of the other reviewers, I'd read some good reviews and together with the Commonwealth Prize nomination, thought it would be my sort of book. Set in Kashmir against the continuing political unrest, even before partition, Kip starts out as young chef in the army in this region, the region where his father was also killed. After his mentor is banished to the glacier following an indiscretion, Kip becomes the main Chef, and serves, until he too falls from favour for his interest in a woman suspected of terrorism. Told both in the present and the past, looking back, you piece together the full story, but for me it never reached its full potential and I found the jumping backwards and forwards annoying as well as the passages where it was just a string of food items. Very disappointed with it.
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on 25 June 2010
Prior to purchasing the book I had read reviews which certainly teased my imagination, but upon reading I was very dissapointed. The book opening was exceptional with glimses of the sub continent of which the reader could dip into and become entwined in the journey and the people travelling on the train, but arrival at the main "stage setting" and then into Kashmir and the mountains I felt the vibrancy was lost. The description of the food and its purpose had moments of brilliance but it was hard work at times, sometimes trying too hard and losing the reader.

Certainly not in the realms of Rohinton Mistry - but great promise and I will certainly look for the authors next book.
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(4.5 stars) From the opening pages of this kaleidoscopic debut novel, Canadian author Jaspreet Singh works his magic, setting the opening scene on a train from Delhi to Srinagar, in Kashmir. A born story-teller, gifted with the ability to describe the sights, sounds, and smells of his many Indian settings, Singh also creates, at the same time, lively characters and interconnected plot lines which span two generations. Singh explores the India/Pakistan conflict over Kashmir through the eyes of Kirpal (Kip) Singh, a chef who once worked for Lt. Gen. Ashwini Kumar, formerly chief of the Northern Command in Kashmir. Since a chef has a limited focus, Kip is able to convey all the tensions and conflicts of the area without getting bogged down in the logistical technicalities, and because he is an honorable person, he becomes the conscience of the novel.

Kip has been out of the army for fourteen years when, in 1987, he receives a letter from Lt. Gen. Kumar, who is now Governor of Kashmir. The general's daughter, a small child during the years when Kip worked for him, is now getting married, and the general wants Kip to be the chef for the wedding. Kip is disappointed with the contents of the letter, since has waited fourteen years for an apology from the general for a wrong committed years ago. Nevertheless, he would like to revisit Srinagar, hoping that the general will, at last, recognize that he was unjust to Kip in the past. Kip has a serious illness, and he also believes that if he does the wedding, the general may respond by helping him get necessary medical treatment.

Flashbacks of fifteen or more years, to the time of his army service, fill in the blanks in the narrative and show his relationship with Chef Kishen. When Chef Kichen makes a major strategic error by talking too much, he is sent to a remote outpost on the Siachen Glacier, north along the border with Pakistan, and Kip soon follows him. There among the officers, troops, and the general himself, Kip discovers how the army "works," the compromises people make, the dishonesties, and the lengths the army will go to gain information.

Canadian resident Jaspreet Singh, who grew up in Kashmir, endows his novel with the ring of authenticity, and his descriptions and stories within the various plot lines keep the reader involved on several levels at once. Though the plot lines involving love interests sometimes become overly romantic and even melodramatic, the novel does a fine job recreating the conflicts in an area of the world which may never find peace. The author keeps his plots relatively simple and writes with both sensitivity and clarity, and he gives the reader some credit by leaving him to draw some important conclusions on his own. This accomplished first novel has a broad reach, and the author does a remarkable job of holding together his plots and letting the reader know where he stands, without becoming a moralist or an apologist. Mary Whipple
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"'Chef' is Jaspreet Singh's second book, but first full length novel. It has already won one award and has been nominated for four others.
Narrated by Kirpal Singh, or Kip as he is known, this is a slow-moving but beautifully crafted story.

At the start of the story Kip is setting out on a journey, he is going to prepare a wedding banquet for the Army General that he was chef for, fourteen years.

During the journey Kip reflects on his past, things that happened when he joined the General's staff. He remembers how he learnt about food, about woman and about life.

Kip's teacher and mentor was Kishen - a chef who was dismissed not long after Kip arrived. Later on in the story Kip remembers how he discovered Kishen's journals and how he became transfixed by Kishen's life on the Glacier.

Irem, a woman who is a suspected terrorist becomes a big part of Kip's life and there are some really beautiful scenes between them, the dialogue is haunting.

A novel that needs a lot of concentration but is so emotional. It is both sorrowful and joyful and really brings home the beauty and the terror of Kashmir."
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on 27 May 2014
I thought this book was very clever in the way it combined knowledge and preparation of food with the complexity of beliefs and conflicts in India, in this case particularly in Kashmir. The book did not dwell on the horror of war but it nevertheless clearly showed how it pulled apart communities and brought fear to people's lives. The characters in the book were very well drawn, I felt very engaged with them all and could not put the book down.
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on 10 May 2014
An interesting book which details life and the beauty of Kashmir. Through the eyes of chef, the complexity of the region comes to life and the harsh reality of living in a disputed territory. A well written book that is easy to read but equally captivating.
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on 17 August 2013
Interesting varied timelines and descriptions. Narrative a bit mixed. Great for people who like reading recipes, I skipped those bits. Overall ok to good, well written and an easy read. Kashmir and its contradictions are highlighted.
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on 9 March 2011
I picked up this book without quite knowing what to expect, just wanting to fill my kindle with some books to read over a long train journey. Pleasantly surprised by the book - it's well written, tightly narrated and has some really interesting characters. It also feels delightfully different from the usual stream of novels set in India - family, women, and the like. It still rests on the popular motifs - such as kitchens, spices and heritage - but does so by turning it on its head.

I felt my interest cool a bit towards the end, but that may have been my own limitation - I sometimes felt that I was dangerously close to losing the plot of the story. It's a different take on Kashmir, the armed forces, men in kitchens and innocence. Worth a read.
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on 6 November 2013
I enjoyed this book for the historical content in it, but the story was difficult to follow, it jumped around too much. Having said that, I would like to see what this writer does next.
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on 3 February 2014
Singh brings strands of the story together very cleverly to convey human dilemmas in a conflicted society. A great read.
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