Saturday, 10 July 2021

The Startup Wife by Tahmima Anam


The Startup Wife by Tahmima Anam
Published by Canongate on the 3rd June 2021.


How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Halfway through her PhD and already dreaming of running her own lab, computer scientist Asha has her future all mapped out. Then a chance meeting and whirlwind romance with her old high-school crush, Cyrus, changes everything.

Dreaming big, together with their friend Jules they come up with a revolutionary idea: to build a social networking app that could bring meaning to millions of lives. While Asha creates an ingenious algorithm, Cyrus’ charismatic appeal throws him into the spotlight. 

When the app explodes into the next big thing, Asha should be happy, shouldn’t she? But why does she feel invisible in the boardroom of her own company? Why are decisions being made without her? Gripping, witty and razor-sharp, The Startup Wife is a blistering novel about big ambitions, speaking out and standing up for what you believe in.

I was completely captivated by The Startup Wife from almost the very first page and loved the time I spent with Asha Ray through reading this novel. I found that the startup concept itself really spoke to me so personally wanting the idea to be true was a strong part of my enthusiasm for the book. However, I could also believe strongly in the characters and their relationships to each other. Having worked, albeit briefly, within an IT environment myself, I could recognise people's motivations and I was also reminded of reading 7 Unicorn Drive by Dani Polajnar, a memoir of a real-life unicorn startup. Tahmima Anam has a lot to say about the mixing of marriage with business, especially how the societal and cultural expectations we bring into relationships with us can determine our behaviours without us being fully aware of their influence. There is also a thought-provoking feminist thread woven through The Startup Wife which frequently had me cheering on certain characters and furious with others! 

I love novels which combine entertaining, gripping storytelling with social commentary and that sums up The Startup Wife to a T. For example, at one point Anam lays out the ridiculousness of things like an investor firm proudly announcing their intent to bring businesses run by POC women up to 5% of their portfolio - as though the token gesture of allocating POC women a 1/20th share should be applauded. Yet I never felt as though the novel preached. Instead I could empathise with Asha's blithe acceptance of situations which, to a reader's eyes, were patently wrong and I understood what led her to engineer her own invisibility, even while she was frustrated by the resulting lack of recognition. I am delighted to have discovered Tahmima Anam's writing, thanks to Canongate and NetGalley. I am keen both to see what story she next explores and to catch up with her back catalogue of work.


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