“Not Quite the Full Chapati”

“Not Quite the Full Chapati” by Kath Hirani
Printed Book


The story follows the friendship between Helen and Jo who meet on 1964 whilst in infant school. Jo’s mother is English, but her father is from Pakistan. Initially her father comes across as being quite Westernised, but following a visit home he decides to take up his religion again and tries to force it on his children who rebel. Eventually Jo virtually lives with Helen’s family to escape the problems at home.

Both girls train to be nurses and when Helen meets Rahim, a dentist working in oral surgery, Jo does everything she can to discourage Helen. After some time the relationship is broken off because Rahim is destined to marry an Indian girl and have his parents live with him. Helen moves away to stay with her uncle in the USA, but meets up with Rahim again on a trip to Canada, and it is then that Rahim decides to approach is parents regarding the prospect of having an English daughter-in-law. The story tells of the problems encountered in trying to gain his parents approval and of Helen’s struggle to be accepted by them and the Asian community-hence the title of the book because no matter how one tries, it is very difficult to be fully accepted.

When Jo meets Sam and wishes to marry him her father won’t acknowledge the marriage and wants Jo to marry someone from Pakistan therefore Helen’s father is asked to represent Jo and give her away at the wedding. Sadly Helen’s father suffers from severe depression and his story is also told.

The main story lines-

1. Jo’s upbringing and her struggle with racism and her own identity.

2. Helen’s fascination from a young age with the Asian culture followed by her relationship with Rahim, a dentist working in oral surgery at the same hospital

3. Helen’s father’s depression which eventually leads to his suicide.

4. Rahim’s quest to gain his parents consent to marry an English girl.

5. Jo’s marriage to an English man, her father’s disapproval, and how Helen’s father came to give her away at the wedding.


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