This is my fourth encounter with Amulya Malladi’s work and it has been quite as enjoyable as the first three times. Through ‘The Copenhagen Affair’, Malladi has brought to fore a mental illness that is often brushed under the carpet – depression. However, it is not a melancholic rendition of the illness rather an insight into a woman’s self awareness and self discovery as she attempts to come to terms with the changes in her life. Along with depression, some light is also shed upon anxiety as a mental condition and how it is ignored and unrecognised whilst it continues to play havoc with the daily life of the sufferer.
The novel begins in California with the protagonist Sanya a financial consultant who appears to be suffering from depression after a particularly stressful incident at work. As a “remedy” her husband Harry suggests they move to Copenhagen as he believes a change of scene will help her recovery. The reader is also made aware of Sanya’s over achieving Indian immigrant parents and sister (all doctors) and the performance expectations that immigrant parents often have of their children.
As Sanya and Harry relocate to Copenhagen for a year under the pretext of Harry’s business deal there, Sanya slowly acclimatises to life in a European city. I loved reading about life in Copenhagen – the importance placed on designers and brands, the various streets, cafes, restaurants and museums as well as the Danish way of life which is often referred to as ‘hygge’. As an HR professional, I particularly found the difference in work life balance in Denmark and America to be very interesting.
Through the course of the story, Malladi has effectively demonstrated the changes that Sanya experiences in her perception of self as well as of others around her. As she rebuilds her confidence and self esteem, she discovers that she too can be assertive and can set the rules around what she expects from her relationship(s) with others rather than being a chronic ‘people pleaser’.
It would be easy for a reader to interpret the title of the book to allude to a romantic liaison. To me, the title meant much more – affair with a new city and more importantly with one’s own self. Malladi’s writing as well as character development is very engaging and I did not feel that her attention to detail was at any point overbearing.
I enjoyed this novel and it has definitely put Copenhagen on my travel itinerary (hopefully in the not so distant future!)