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It's that time of life

When you cross 40, you know you're moving into Menopause Magenta country, leaving your Flirty Fuchsia days far behind. For 43-year-old Mantra, the heroine of Rupa Gulab's highly readable new novel, The Great Depression Of The 40s, however, it is closer to the land of Frigid Fuschia (her husband Vir reminds her that it's been five months, two weeks, three days of celibacy in their marriage — and still counting).

books Updated: Aug 21, 2010 00:28 IST
Poonam Saxena

The Great Depression of the 40s
Rupa Gulab
Penguin R250 pp 215

When you cross 40, you know you're moving into Menopause Magenta country, leaving your Flirty Fuchsia days far behind. For 43-year-old Mantra, the heroine of Rupa Gulab's highly readable new novel, The Great Depression Of The 40s, however, it is closer to the land of Frigid Fuschia (her husband Vir reminds her that it's been five months, two weeks, three days of celibacy in their marriage — and still counting).

Vir's own entry into the dreaded Middle Ages has been accompanied by complete prostration at the altar of whole-wheat pasta and multi-grain high fibre bread. Cholesterol is the new Enemy No 1, closely followed by a nauseating colleague nicknamed Urea Heap who has managed to worm his way into the CEO's affections, to poor Vir's detriment.

Mantra herself quits her job and decides to work on a book (and her marriage and her cook). But before she can set her own life in order, she must cope with many distractions — among others, she has to steer her sister-in-law Anjali away from the suspect charms of an old admirer. In the foolish manner of those getting into the Wrinkled Raspberry stage of their lives, Anjali suddenly finds her wonderful husband Karan a trifle dull and hankers for the excitement that her old flame promises. (What she really wants of course is the heady feeling of being ardently desired by a man who is not her husband.)

All the characters hurtle towards individual flashpoints; what eventually happens to them forms the climax of the book.

The Great Depression of the 40s is witty, funny and very enjoyable. But what sets the book apart is the fact that despite the lightness of touch and strong dose of humour, Rupa Gulab is also uncannily observant and insightful. The dilemmas of her characters, the emotions they go through, the challenges they face — they are all spot on.

Read it if you're over 40. Read it even if you're below 40 — you'll get there one day.

P.S. Also read the cover attentively.