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3.6 out of 5 stars
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3.6 out of 5 stars
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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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on 1 December 2011
This is a overwrought idea that probably should have been about 5 pages long. Poorly written, neither insightful or humorous, this lacks any kind of panache or literary flourish
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on 6 May 2006
The book grew out of some research he'd done during his degree, encouraged by an obviously rather wonderful academic named Dr Sue Benson.

The central thesis is, as he explained in an article in the FT, "the idea that if a boy's maternal role model is stronger than his paternal one, he is likely to overshoot with his own definition of what it is to be a man and develop a form of "hypermasculinity"". Knowing this tempers what would otherwise be my frustration with much of the language.

As a novel, I'd say that this book is rather irritating, but as a fictionalised write-up of some anthropological research, I'd say it's rather good, and he obviously had a lot of fun writing it.
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on 20 February 2014
Aside from it raising some interesting points about subcultures and how their language, culture and behaviour fits in with dominant British culture and their parents' Hindu and Sikh tradition, this book really provides very little in the way of meaning. It reminds me of a slightly more well written story for a secondary school project, drawn out completely unjustifiably over 350 pages; it really isn't worthy of being so long considering how much substance it lacks.

Apart from a few half enjoyable scenes, this is not a good read and is stretched out over too many pages totally unjustifiably. I'm surprised this even got published - probably due to the author's connections and stature as a journalist. I'm sure some would think I'm being harsh and may find slightly more substance in this book, especially if they're a part of the subcultures described in the book; but as another reviewer has said, I don't think this is the voice of those subcultures, it's not good enough.
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on 4 May 2007
I loved this book. Although it deals with some serious issues, I found it surprisingly funny as well. The opening scene is violent and unpleasant, and yet I couldn't help but chuckle as the narrator Jas desperately tries to look cool in front of his mates. Some people may find the slang language difficult to read initially, but it is worth perservering as there is a lot more to this book than first meets the eye. Definitely to be recommended!
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on 29 March 2011
This is the first review I have ever been compelled to write. This book was so dull I gave up... and I'm fairly easily pleased when it comes to books - as long as its entertaining, I'll read it.

The fact that it was written in dialect was fine with me but the complete lack of storyline/plot or interesting characters made reading the few chapters that I did read feel like a pointless waste of time. And having read the other reviews on here, (1) I'm astounded that it received critical let alone popular acclaim and (2) I'm relieved to see a small group of discerning individuals agree that this book is basically pants!

I'm so glad I didn't persevere with reading this pile of rubbish. Please don't waste your money or time with this one - you'd get more entertainment reading teenagers' tedious wall posts on facebook.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 14 November 2007
This debut novel by financial journalist Malkani is well worth reading and deserves much respect for its brilliant recreation of a particular form of urban patois. Set in Hounslow, in West London (adjacent to Heathrow Airport), it revolves around four South Asian teenagers who style themselves as hard rudeboys. Or rather, three rudeboys, and one new hanger-on who narrates the tale. The story more or less concern the antics of the foursome as they cruise around the hood, posing in their flash cars (actually belonging to their parents), acting tough while skiving off from studying for examination retakes. Eventually, a cell phone scam they run brings them into contact with a wealthy playboy from their hood, who brings them in on a much more profitable scam, and in touch with the high life.

All of this is fairly interesting, but mainly a backdrop for a larger (and often quite funny) exploration of immigrant assimilation, cultural authenticity, racism, class, and youth culture. A good portion of the book involves how these British born and bred teens negotiate their identities. On the street they are self-styled hoods, while at home they are obedient, deferential children. In contrast to their immigrant parents who kept a low profile in order to assimilate, these boys demonstrate their unwillingness to assimilate by maintaining a high profile. Similarly, they blend a variety of South Asian cultural attitudes and styles with that of American and British black culture. This is all teased out in the interactions of the boys, as well as a subplot involving the arranged marriage of one of the boys' older brothers, and another subplot involving a sexy Muslim girl. The material could easily become didactic or dry in the wrong hands, but in Malkani's rendering, it comes alive through the freshest, fizziest dialogue since Trainspotting. And like that book, the combination of Punjabi, Black, British, and Text Message slang might intimidate some readers (especially older ones) at first, after about ten pages, most will be comfortable with it rhythms.

What keeps the book from being truly excellent is the problem of what the narrator is doing hanging out with the other three. He's clearly been a bit of a nerd or non-entity his whole life, and just why these status-obsessed rudeboys would more or less adopt him is never satisfactorily explained. While it does make sense that you would have an outsider or newcomer narrate this story so that they can explain everything that's self-evident to the other main characters and present an opposing viewpoint, the dissonance between him and the others never goes away. There's also a "gotcha" twist at the end that adds nothing and only raises further questions of plausibility. Nonetheless, the book is an entertaining and thought-provoking fictional look at a particular subculture that anyone with an interest in modern Britain should check out.
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on 10 June 2006
The book starts with a racist attack - a group of rude-boy "Pakis" beat up a white boy. The violence is shocking - although not gratuitous. And at the end of the chapter we learn that the white boy used to be friends with the narrator. There are twists and ironies like this that run through the book.

Like one of the other reviewers, I devoured this book, reading it in a couple of days. I couldn't put it down and was sorry when it was finished. Although the style of writing could be described as overly simplistic - using a mixture of gangsta/youth/Asian/text speak, the issues that are dealt with are incredibly complicated - hegemonic masculinity, race, religion, issues of duty between parents and children, homophobia/homoeroticism, tradition vs bling (now I sound like the poncy gora teacher in the book!)

By making the narrator an "outsider" who desperately wants to be accepted, you get to see the different points of view he encounters and experience his internal conflict - the choices that are offered him - should he be a "good boy", study hard as his parents and old teacher want him, or should he be a rude-boy - a member of an anti-society youth gang where petty crime and rejection of mainstream "white" values are the main goals. Then there is his desire for a young Muslim woman who is one of the strongest characters in the book.

The book also does a good job of showing the cultural differences between Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs - which I think a lot of people just tend to lump together as "Asians" - this is clearly not the case. And although it deals with some very tough subjects, it is also very funny in places - I particulary liked the irony of these hard guys being late for their gang fights because they have to pop into Boots to buy tampax and chapstick for their mums.

I wish I knew Gautam Malkani so I could phone him up and tell him what a great book he'd written. The characters Hardjit, Samira and Jas felt so real and I really cared about what was going to happen to them.
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on 2 April 2007
Gautam Malkani's much-hyped debut novel "Londonstani" was a must-read for more than the usual reasons; he is also well-known as a talented hack who has shot up the ranks at the Financial Times. It was against this backdrop that I ordered "Londonstani", not knowing what to expect in terms of content but imagining it would be something well-researched and thorough at the very least, given the author's journalistic repute.

In the end I didnt just read "Londonstani", I devoured it. From the very first page, the book is delivered at a frantic pace; turning the pages fast enough to keep up with the storyline becomes a challenge in itself. "Londonstani" speaks about many things: the emergence of an aggressive masculinity in young adults as a reaction against their submissive fathers; the folly of acting in concert with individuals whose fundamental views you disagree with; the danger of acting on personal belief when it runs against a powerful group dynamic. These are not unfamiliar themes; what makes the book so penetrative, however, is the tools it uses to present and dissect them. For probably the first time in popular contemporary literature, we are given an insight into these themes as they apply in Asian rudeboy culture. To capture this, Malkani writes in a unique prose that combines Asian slang, Black slang, text message language and Punjabi. Though this is surprising initially, the reader gets used to it very quickly, and, in terms of linguistic accuracy, it is spot-on. Scatalogy is necessary only because it is reflective of reality.

The writing is not without fault, however. At times, one senses the author succumbing to his own frustration at choosing to write entirely within the confines of urban slang. Writing in vernacular means that Malkani is not given the chance to wax lyrical in the manner that a talented journalist such as him undoubtedly can. As a result, some of his extended dialogues (or should I say monologues) start to feel contrived. And in infusing so much economics into the novel, one cant help but think that Malkani is using his book as a canvas on which to indulge his own passion for the subject!

These criticisms accounted for, it is the novel's sublime verve that is perhaps its greatest asset. It is what elevates the book into the realms of "excellent first effort" rather than "good effort". And it is sustained even though the novel deals with undoubtedly dark, sometimes depressing themes. This energy emanates from three things: Malkani's comic talent, evident in some hilarious dialogue throughout the book; his ability to set up his story at an electricfying tempo; and finally from happier aspects of the plot - sharp upturns in the otherwise rapidly descending gradient that represents the main character's fortunes.

It is a courageous man who not only chooses to write his very first novel in urban patois, but to tackle themes as difficult and in as original a manner as the ones on show here. Malkani pulls it all off very well. "Londonstani" is truely a bravura effort in the same way his dissertation probably struck his tutors as - original yet coruscating.
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on 24 September 2006
This is an execellent read, a must for anybody! My only problem was the suprise at the end..it just did not make sense at all and their really was no need for it, also, because of the 'twist' i doubt there would ever be a film/tv drama made of it, which is a shame as I could imagine it on Channel 4!
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