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3.5 out of 5 stars50
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on 3 March 2009
First and foremost, a real feat of ventriloquism: Malkani creates a totally convincing fictional voice for his characters, a mixture of Asian, cockney and black American hip hop slang. Anyone who lives in London will find this familiar from journeys when the bus fills up with teenagers. It's a convincing picture, too, of a particular lifestyle, young men posturing and fighting in an attempt to define a masculine role for themselves, on the one hand totally alienated from their society - failing exams and looking to the gangsta life rather than the more respectable success that comes from working hard and going to university - and on another level completely enslaved by it, fetishising consumer goods and obsessing over makes of cars and mobile phones (to underline this, certain words are always spelled in teenage text-speak - u, b4 and so on).

It's an exhilarating, highly coloured linguistic ride and the pages fly by. The problem comes when Malkani has to decide what to do with this basic set-up: rather being driven by character, and focussing on the painful journey to maturity that his characters may or may not make, the novel becomes driven by plot as the consequences of Jas and his mates' dabbling in crime begin to unravel, and the latter half of the book turns into a rather implausible thriller. There's a brilliantly-executed plot-twist at the end which has you searching back for clues and admiring the way Malkani set it up, but I'm uncertain of its purpose assessed against the broader issues of masculinity, maturity and culture that the first half raises: it seems more of a mechanical plot device to keep us turning the pages.

So: a promising debut, a good reporter's ear pressed into service, a convincing depiction of teenagers in the no-man's-land between three cultures; but it could have been more if, ironically, less had happened in it.
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on 14 June 2006
I thought this was very much the type of book I myself would have written. As a guy who himself is a second generation indian ,labelled a coconut by most of my asian friends and relatives I found the book hit home as a bullet hitting its intended target.

Whilst it kept me glued to the pages throughout , Londonstani made me think about all of the negative and confusing influences in asian society today. Like Gautham Malkani states this is a book exploring the issues of masculinity; in a society where there is a lack of male role models.. .Asian-Indian British or 'Indo-Brit' kids (I myself for that matter) have grown up raised predominantly by mothers and sisters,because we were raised at a time when most of our fathers where out grinding their fingers to the bone to make a life for our futures.

I found it a real eye opener to confront the fact (during this book) that all of this hip hop gangster stuff is all about young angry asian men and young Asian guys trying to assert their masculinity (after years of "feminization") on the world in a way that makes them seem "cool" or "hip" to the world. Typical 'Hardjit' one of the main characters in the book, comes across as your typical asian urban scene local hero and role model come hip hop gangster all rolled into one. He is Hyper-masculine!

This book is entertaining, vibrant and graphic and this book will show you exactly how insane funny and disturbing multicultural britian has become!! Awesome book Ghutham , truly inspiring work.

Jatinder
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on 19 March 2006
I was fortunate enough to read an advance bound proof of Londonstani and honestly say that this is one of the most interesting novels and brilliant debuts I've ever had the good fortune to come across.
Within its sprawling scope it considers London's social ethic, the ideas of assimilation and post-collonialism within the third generation, racism, diversity, money, power, economics, Bollywood, Hollywood, what it means to have a voice within the current youth culture and what that voice actually is, the dynamic of parents and children and so on. It is to its credit that it deals with each of these concepts intelligently, never telling the reader what to think, only showing them what is happening and asking them to interpret as they will.
There are elements of Burgess' masterpiece, A Clockwork Orange here. Hardjit's gang go around speaking in their own language, ruthlessly attacking people who don't show them the respect they feel they desevre, writing their parents out of the equation and obsessing about their masculinity. What makes it more disturbing that Clockwork, is that what's going on in this book is real. I know it's cliche to say 'ripped for the headlines' but this really is. Sitting on the bus reading it, I could hear other passengers talking and acting just like the characters in the book. This man has his finger very tightly on the pulse of urban London's Asian sub-culture and has depicted it so vividly that the lines between fiction and fact melt away, leaving the reader with a stark and brutal portrait of modern London's youth culture.
I won't dream of spoiling the surprises the book has in store for you. It kept me constantly interested and frequently shocked as it progressed right until its very last page. That said, there are criticisms to be made. Whenever an economic or political point wants to be made, the style of writing takes a back seat and it begins to read like an article. This develops into one of the characters becoming a Bollywood-style bad guy and this being shoved down the reader's throat. The plot begins to deteriorate as these points become more and more important. Whether or not that is important is debatable but I don't think it's unfair to say that the actual surface plot of the book is uninspired and frequently cliched. What marks the book out and makes this acceptable is the fact that underneath the maudlin surface beats a tense, dangerous, violent pulse that throbs with amazing insight and vicious humour.
Although it's not yet published, I hope that Londonstani will be something we will all hear a lot more of. It proves that there are new writers out there capable of writing intelligent, modern fiction without resorting to the lowest common denominator (Mr Brown has a lot to answer for). If you enjoyed White Teeth, Midnight's Children, Brick Lane or The Buddha of Suburbia, I'd recommend this wholeheartedly. If you didn't enjoy them, read it anyway...you'll be pleasantly surprised.
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on 10 May 2007
Well researched, and written with a real ear for the rhythm of language, I thought this was a good book.

I enjoyed the plot and the characters, despite not being particularly complex personalities, were believable. Be warned, the ending was unbelievably cheesy!

This is a book I would recommend for teenage boys who don't read much, because the pace and immediacy of the action will get them hooked, or for anyone who wants a contemporary page turner, with a clever plot and feel for zeitgeist.

I'm interested to see what the follow up will be, because I think this writer is capable of something more sophisticated.
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on 23 June 2009
I was fascinated by other reviews of 'Londonstani' and believed it would do for the London/Asian youth culture what 'Trainspotting' had done for Edinburgh junkies. From the beginning, the story held my interest even if the linguistic presentation did tax the imagination - the author, perhaps, should have taken a leaf from Irvine Welsh and broken the narrative with passages written in standard english, or eased up on the text-speak when the pace slowed down.

The characters are entirely believable, even if some of their situations strain the credulity (another review mentioned the introduction of the 'Sanjay' character as being a good example). Some of the parental dialect strays dangerously close to parody but, on the whole, it works well.

Ultimately, however, the story is let down by the simple fact of the narrative not being written by a member of the class it supposedly represents. In the absence of a unifying theme, it is easy to see that the limited intellectual scope of the characters would make for a threadbare plot and so the voice of the narrator begins to sound false. Other reviewers have mentioned Burgess, but 'A Clockwork Orange' has a tightly structured form, with a moral underpinning that leads to a logical, self-fulfilling conclusion. 'Londonstani' seems to want to combine the Burgessian linguistic elements with the street-harshness of Irvine Welsh but it only succeeds partially. The ending is unbelievably trite, even if the events leading up to it are plausible.
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on 19 March 2006
I was fortunate enough to read an advance bound proof of Londonstani and honestly say that this is one of the most interesting novels and brilliant debuts I've ever had the good fortune to come across.
Within its sprawling scope it considers London's social ethic, the ideas of assimilation and post-collonialism within the third generation, racism, diversity, money, power, economics, Bollywood, Hollywood, what it means to have a voice within the current youth culture and what that voice actually is, the dynamic of parents and children and so on. It is to its credit that it deals with each of these concepts intelligently, never telling the reader what to think, only showing them what is happening and asking them to interpret as they will.
There are elements of Burgess' masterpiece, A Clockwork Orange here. Hardjit's gang go around speaking in their own language, ruthlessly attacking people who don't show them the respect they feel they desevre, writing their parents out of the equation and obsessing about their masculinity. What makes it more disturbing that Clockwork, is that what's going on in this book is real. I know it's cliche to say 'ripped for the headlines' but this really is. Sitting on the bus reading it, I could hear other passengers talking and acting just like the characters in the book. This man has his finger very tightly on the pulse of urban London's Asian sub-culture and has depicted it so vividly that the lines between fiction and fact melt away, leaving the reader with a stark and brutal portrait of modern London's youth culture.
I won't dream of spoiling the surprises the book has in store for you. It kept me constantly interested and frequently shocked as it progressed right until its very last page. That said, there are criticisms to be made. Whenever an economic or political point wants to be made, the style of writing takes a back seat and it begins to read like an article. This develops into one of the characters becoming a Bollywood-style bad guy and this being shoved down the reader's throat. The plot begins to deteriorate as these points become more and more important. Whether or not that is important is debatable but I don't think it's unfair to say that the actual surface plot of the book is uninspired and frequently cliched. What marks the book out and makes this acceptable is the fact that underneath the maudlin surface beats a tense, dangerous, violent pulse that throbs with amazing insight and vicious humour.
Although it's not yet published, I hope that Londonstani will be something we will all hear a lot more of. It proves that there are new writers out there capable of writing intelligent, modern fiction without resorting to the lowest common denominator (Mr Brown has a lot to answer for). If you enjoyed White Teeth, Midnight's Children, Brick Lane or The Buddha of Suburbia, I'd recommend this wholeheartedly. If you didn't enjoy them, read it anyway...you'll be pleasantly surprised.
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on 22 April 2007
Welcome to Londonstani a world where muscles rule and school is for fools. Jas, a 19 year wannabe rude boy, finds refuge in a crew of plastic-gangsta, BBA's* but despite his best efforts to belong, remains an impostor, begrudgingly too intelligent to just accept rude boy etiquette. Just like Jas, the reader finds themselves being educated in the ways of Asian and youth culture and just like Jas, struggle to make send if it all.

Written predominantly in slang, Londonstani maintains an authenticity not un-similar to that of and Irvine Welsh novel. The humour is crude with its indulgent use of Paki jokes and un-PC observations but is also witty and incredibly sharp. This book has meant to shock and it does with its brutal honesty but two minutes later you'll be laughing again.

Londonstanti could easily be misunderstood as story about race but fundamentally it is a rights-of-passage story with all the usual teenage angst, with a heavy racial overtones and a hilarious surprise ending.

Read if you liked: Buddha of Suburbia- Hanif Kureshi, White Teeth- Zadie Smith, Life of Pi- Yann Martell, Junk- Melvin Burgess. Utterly convincing.

Four out of five

*British Born Asian

By Jennifer Cader
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on 16 May 2009
Londonstani is about a young teenage born in today's world, where the ancient respect and pride takes it own modern form in the new generation.

Jas is the newest member of the 'rudeboy' world and tries his best to fit in; from attire to culture even.
However, a new business deal that seems and proves prosperous in the beginning turns against him overnight.

Londonstani goes into great depth into today's youngsters mind, making it easier for many to understand.
The author used creative concepts and ideas to describe the ways of the indian youth culture.
Those of us who live within similar cultural bubbles will find many explanations and stories something that they can relate to, as the author so brilliantly describes all the big and small points we all live with on a day to day basis.

The twist at the end is the most shocking - which made me want to go back and start the whole book again.

I have to admit - there were points where I personally felt the author went off track a few times, but it all added to the spice of the story.

Definitely a book that will linger in your mind for days after putting the it down.
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on 28 September 2008
As someone who grew up in Hounslow in the 60s and 70s among an emerging (and relatively deferent) Asian culture, part of the attraction of 'Londonstani' was to read about the tensions between the peers of my youth and their antecedents, in and around the town of my childhood.

The first third of the book captures these tensions really well, with the constant pressure of respect for elders and traditions heaped on top of the existing (and timeless) youth identity issues associated with growing up suburbs like Hounslow (although I felt that Har(d)jit's 'hard man' acts of violence out of keeping with the rest of his chaotic interactions with his mates).

Unfortunately the book failed for me with the introduction of Sanjay (and the plot contrivance leading to this) and then things went downhill shortly afterwards. True it would have been difficult to sustain a book entirely constructed from the bickerings of the gangsta wannabes, although clearly I would have preferred this - a shorter and more existential work could have been an option. Instead the rather tired spiral of events (and the appalling ending) resulted in 'Londonstani' becoming rather tedious and increasingly implausible.

Frustrating indeed, as the first third of the book was rather brilliant. I've been practising my 'phone face' ever since finishing 'Londonstani', and the boredom of life in Hounslow rendered in the book is pretty much as I remember it.
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on 18 April 2008
This is the story - drawn with crayons, I might add - of an Asian crew from Hounslow and their exploits...

On a positive note I did enjoy the street slang, but after about 20 pages of it I decided that I had had enough. Ummmm...I liked the cover, the stenciled tigers were great.

However there are too many problems with this book to make it even halfway recommendable. Firstly the characters are so childish as to make one cringe, with inter-relationships that are logic defying and implausible.

The plot is, essentially, non-existent until 3/4 of the way through the book by which time I had had enough of reading prose off of a mobile phone screen sent by a fifteen year old. Finally the language did not ring true for me, it felt laboured and pastiche. I think a major problem is Malkani's reticence for punctuation - the dialogue would have read more fluidly if he had used apostrophes instead of numbers and single letters. His style reminded me so much of Irving Welsh it was embarrassing - trainspotting this is not.

One star is a shame because this is a part of London's community that should have more of a voice, but this isn't it.
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