Farida Cooper, madly in love with writing, with a poco-pomo expert, with jazz and with a young Parsi boy, is the beating heart of this sprawling novel. She’s a complex creation, unable to shake off her all-too-famous Parsi surname, and she grows on the reader as Desai takes us back and forth from 1950s Bombay to academic Chicago in a beat.
The dialogue is jarring, often overmannered (the incessant use of "I say" does not provide a shortcut to Parsi English)—a pity because everyone in this novel believes in long conversations. Get past that, and A Woman Madly in Love offers the same pleasures as an affair with an old friend. It has few surprises, but many insights and the small joys that arise from making new discoveries in an already explored land.