Customer Review

32 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dangeorus, disturbing and quite brilliant, 19 Mar. 2006
This review is from: Londonstani (Hardcover)
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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