Tag Archives: Matador

Guest Post – Favourite Scenes In The Coral Strand by Ravinder Randhawa


I am super excited to welcome the brilliant Ravinder Randhawa back to Tales today for another fab guest post this time celebrating her book, The Coral Strand which was released earlier this year published by Matador.

Passion. Deceit. Revenge.

I was a huge fan of Ravinder’s Beauty and the Beast (you can find my review here) and her short story collection Dynamite (you can find my review here) so I am super excited to find out what The Coral Strand has in story for me!

Today Ravinder discusses her favourite scenes in the book….


From English winters to Indian summers. From the cold streets of modern Britain to the glamorous, turbulent and impassioned world of 1940’s Mumbai.

Each year, Sita makes a mysterious journey to the Mausoleum, the place of dark memories and warped beginnings. She goes to spy on Emily and Champa, the strange ‘guardians’ she once escaped, and on whom she had taken a daring revenge. This year proves to be fatefully different… This year, the terrible secrets of the past are starting to emerge; secrets that inexorably link the three women to each other, to the grey-eyed stranger Kala, and to an altogether different world – the glittering, violent and passionate world of 1940’s Mumbai.

Ravinder Randhawa’s women, caught in a desperate fight for survival, cross taboos and forbidden lines in this richly plotted novel, imbued with fascinating historical detail, and the beauties of place and period. Readers of modern and historical novels alike will enjoy Randhawa’s evocative portrait of the compelling relationship between Britain and India, which continues to enthrall and engage us.

Favourite Scenes In The Coral Strand

I have so many favourite scenes in The Coral Strand, I’ll restrict myself to four, from the early part of the book. The Coral Strand is one of the few novels to present the dark side of empire and the Raj. We’re normally given a Raj that’s glamorous and pretty, with only a little bit of tyranny. But in my head, I can hear Emily saying, ‘first they established the empire over women, and then over countries.’ This sentence isn’t in the novel, but I can hear Emily saying it loud and clear. Emily instinctively understands what it’s all about and when faced with survival or destitution, has the guts to break one of the Empire’s taboos.

On to favourite scenes: my first one is actually the opening scene.

“Afraid? No fear. Not me.” This is how we meet Sita, one of the major characters, as she stares into a tiny mirror, and chants her daily mantra to herself. Sita’s determined to appear strong and independent, to stand on her own two feet, but every morning she needs to build up some Dutch courage.

   When she takes a bottle of Old Spice, the male cologne, and sprinkles herself with it as if it’s the most fragrant of feminine perfumes, we begin to guess there may be contrariness and rebellion simmering in her character. The scene takes us back to her childhood and introduces us to the formidable and mysterious Emily, who will brook no defiance, and who first gives her a bottle of Old Spice. We also learn that Sita ran away from Emily’s house.

   Opening the curtains, Sita rubs the condensation on the window, and a reflective, thoughtful Sita, looks out into the dark morning, noting the few windows which are lit, “early risers providing her with a distant sense of camaraderie.” I love the feeling this sentence gives, suggesting that Sita instinctively feels a kinship with other people, a connectedness. Echoing one of the major themes in the novel, about people being connected to each other, and the need to find out how and why.

My second favourite scene is where Sita assembles herself, item by item, garment by garment, make-up colour by make-up colour, copying the image in an Asian magazine. Because she doesn’t know how to dress for an Asian occasion, and has to engineer an imitation. For me, it carries echoes of how women, so often have to ‘construct’ themselves, ‘engineer’ themselves, for the outside world.

The third scene is set in Britain 1942, and is rather brutal, but brilliantly captures the steel in Emily’s character. Emily and Maureen are both being courted by Thomas Miller, who is visiting from India. In the end he chooses Emily. Rejected Maureen waits for Emily outside the factory gates “with murder in her eyes.” Maureen batters and beats her into the ground, till other women forcefully pull her away. “Spitting blood and grit, Emily tasted victory.”

The fourth scene is set in Bombay*1942. Thomas and Emily have just disembarked from their ship, and are checking into a boarding house. Unknown to Emily, Thomas has a secret lover in Bombay, a woman called Champa. Two of Champa’s acquaintances see Emily arriving with Thomas; discover she’s his new wife, and immediately set off to see Champa.

   In Champa’s rooms, the women are formal and polite: “To fully milk the enjoyment of an event, suspense must be created, with hints and teases strewn along the path.” When they finally reveal the truth, one of the women, nick-named Telegram, gets completely carried away, wildly exaggerates the beauty of Emily’s looks, and extravagantly elevates her importance by hinting she may be linked to English nobility, perhaps Royalty itself.  “Emily was never to know how much she owed Telegram, for after her description of Emily, Champa never quite managed to shed the image and information she was first fed.” And thus, events are set in motion, which cross decades and carry them across the ocean to England.

*Bombay is now called Mumbai


You can buy a copy of The Coral Strand here

Check out a previous guest post by Ravinder about Love and Loss here

About Ravinder Randhawa


Ravinder was born in India, but grew up in the leafy county of Warwickshire, England, not far from Stratford-upon-Avon. She was incredibly lucky that her first trip to a theatre was to see ‘The Merchant of Venice’ by the Royal Shakespeare Company. An event that’s still luminous in her mind. Ravinder loves travelling, and socialising with friends and family. Tends to have opinions on many things, and tries to dig a bit deeper into them and discuss them in her monthly blog at: http://www.ravinderrandhawa.com/category/blog/        

You can find out more about Ravinder on her website – www.ravinderrandhawa.com

Or why not follow her on twitter – @RealRavs

A huge thank you to Ravinder for such a fab guest post and to Faye Rogers for organising.

I can’t wait to read The Coral Strand!

Have you read The Coral Strand?  What did you think?  Have you read of Ravinder’s other books?  Why not leave a comment using the reply button at the top of the page or tweet me on twitter using @chelleytoy !

Happy Reading!


Guest Post – Love and Loss by Ravinder Randhawa


When the lovely Faye Rogers asked me if I would like to be part of this fab blog tour I jumped at the chance.  I loved Ravinder Randhawa’ s other books I read this year Dynamite and Beauty And The Beast which I reviewed as part of a previous blog tour.

For my stop on the blog tour the lovely author Ravinder Randhawa is sharing some poetry with us and reflecting on love and loss.

A huge thank you to Faye Rogers and author Ravinder Randhawa for having me on this wonderful tour!

About The Book

A Wicked Old Woman

Publisher – Matador

Date Published – October 24th 2015 (republished)

Format – Paperback & Ebook

Category – Contemporary

Drama. Masquerade. Mischief.

A sharply observed, witty and confident novel. Linguistically playful, entertaining and provoking.

In a bustling British city,  Kulwant mischievously masquerades as a much older woman, using her walking stick like a Greek chorus, ‘…stick-leg-shuffle-leg-shuffle…’ encountering new adventures and getting bruised by the jagged edges of her life. There’s the Punjabi punk who rescues her after a carefully calculated fall; Caroline, her gregarious friend from school days, who watched over her dizzy romance with ‘Michael the Archangel’, Maya the myopic who can’t see beyond her broken heart and Rani/Rosalind, who’s just killed a man …

Vividly bringing to life a bit of the 60s, 70s and 80s.

You can find out more about this fab book here or on Goodreads here

Love and Loss

Our lives seesaw on love and loss. Even when we’ve lost, we continue to love. Grieving, bitter-sweet memory accompanying our days. Where there was presence, there’s now absence; where there was a voice, there are only echoes; where there was a future, there’s only a past. The world will never be the same again.

The following three poems cover the centuries from 725 to 2015. The emotions of the oldest poem to the newest, touch us with the same poignancy and haunting sadness as when they were first written.

Poem 1

I was introduced to the ‘River Merchant’s Wife,’ by an actor friend, who read it out to a group of us after dinner. Silencing us with the gentle love story of these two young people, and the wife’s long wait, her yearning hopefulness.

The River Merchant’s Wife: A Letter

While my hair was still cut straight across my forehead

I played about the front gate, pulling flowers.

You came by on bamboo stilts, playing horse,

You walked about my seat, playing with blue plums.

And we went on living in the village of Chōkan:

Two small people, without dislike or suspicion.

At fourteen I married My Lord you.

I never laughed, being bashful.

Lowering my head, I looked at the wall.

Called to, a thousand times, I never looked back.

At fifteen I stopped scowling,

I desired my dust to be mingled with yours

Forever and forever and forever.

Why should I climb the look out?

At sixteen you departed,

You went into far Ku-tō-yen, by the river of swirling eddies,

And you have been gone five months.

The monkeys make sorrowful noise overhead.

You dragged your feet when you went out.

By the gate now, the moss is grown, the different mosses,

Too deep to clear them away!

The leaves fall early this autumn, in wind.

The paired butterflies are already yellow with August

Over the grass in the West garden;

They hurt me. I grow older.

If you are coming down through the narrows of the river Kiang,

Please let me know beforehand,

And I will come out to meet you

As far as Chō-fu-Sa.

(By Li Po. Adapted by Ezra Pound 1915)

Poem 2

The seesaw swings and we have one of the most beautiful love poems in the English language, ‘Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?’ which refuses to acknowledge loss. Whether it’s the loss of youth and beauty, or life and love.

Sonnet 18. ‘Shall I Compare Thee To A Summers Day?’

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate.

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,

And often is his gold complexion dimmed;

And every fair from fair sometime declines,

By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimmed;

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,

Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,

Nor shall death brag thou wand’rest in his shade,

When in eternal lines to Time thou grow’st.

     So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,

     So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

(William Shakespeare )

Poem 3

‘Phone Call on a Train Journey,’ is peculiarly a product of our technology. The anguish of receiving such news while held in solitary captivity on a train, where your feelings have nowhere to go, to till the train reaches the station.

Phone Call on a Train Journey

The smallest bone in the human ear

weighs no more than a grain of rice.

She keeps thinking it means something

but probably is nothing.

Something’s lost, she craves it

hunting in pockets, sleeves,

checks the eyelets in fabric.

Could you confirm you were his sister?

When they pass her his rimless glasses,

they’re tucked into a padded sleeve;

several signatures later,

his rucksack is in her hands

(without the perishables),

lighter than she had imagined.

(From the collection Small Hands by Mona Arshi, published April 2015. Winner of the Forward Prize for Best First Collection.)

A Wicked Old Woman

About The Author

Ravi Photograph

Ravinder Randhawa is the acclaimed author of the novels Beauty and the Beast (YA), A Wicked Old Woman, The Tiger’s Smile and the short story collection Dynamite. She’s currently working on a trilogy: The Fire-Magician. Ravinder was a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Toynbee Hall, Queen Mary’s University, the University of London, and founded the Asian Women Writer’s Collective.

Ravinder was born in India, grew up in leafy Warwickshire, now lives in London and agrees with Samuel Johnson’s saying (though of course, in a gender non-specific way) ‘…if a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.’  Loves good coffee and really good thrillers.

Website: http://www.ravinderrandhawa.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RealRavs

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ravinderrandhawaauthor

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3518698.Ravinder_Randhawa

Check out my review of Dynamite here

Or Beauty And The Beast here

You can also check out a guest post from Ravinder about her favourite scenes in her other book The Coral Strand here

Blog Tour

Why not catch up on the rest of this wonderful blog tour!


Monday 23rd November

A Novel Haul

Tuesday 24th November

Books with Bunny

Wednesday 25th November


Thursday 26th November


Friday 27th November

Live Otherwise

Saturday 28th November

So Many Books, So Little Time

Sunday 29th November

Big Book Little Book

Jane & Bex Book Blog

 Monday 30th November

Have Book Will Read

Tuesday 1st December

Linda’s Book Bag

Wednesday 2nd December

Ali the Dragon Slayer

Reviewed the Book

Thursday 3rd December

The Review Diaries

 Friday 4th December

The Bibliophile & Tea

Poppy Peacock Pens

 Saturday 5th December

The Reader’s Corner


Sunday 6th December

Tales of Yesterday

Have you read A Wicked Old Women or any other books by Ravinda Randhawa?  What did you think?   I would love to hear from you!  Why not leave a comment using the reply button at the top of the page or tweet me on twitter using @chelleytoy !

Happy Reading!


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