Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Possibly the best book I have ever read!

Londonstani by Gautam Malkani

In my book there are 4 types of book, so things can get confusing:

  1. Total Crap - Looks so bad that I don't even read it, or I give up after starting it.
  2. Crap - I read it, I finish it, I don't like it and I forget it.
  3. Good - I read it, I finish it, I like it but I eventually forget it even though I remember that I liked it.
  4. Brilliant - I read it, I love it, I remember it.

There are very few books which have fallen into category 4 for me. "Wilt" by Tom Sharpe would be one. "1984" and"Animal Farm" would be in and also "When memory dies" by A Sivanandan, such a powerful and thought provoking story.

There are the odd one or two that I remember even though I thought they were no good, but writing too much about these will mess up my whole classification system so I shan't. Except to say that then there would be 5 types of book and life would not be as simple. The Man Eater of Punanai would be straight into the new group along with a load of stuff by Wilbur Smith. That series about the genius Egyptian dwarf and those swashbuckling Courtney's. Intricate plots and interestingly written but a load of shite.

Most of the books I read fall into groups 2 and 3 but now, I have a new entry flying straight in at the top of group 4.

Londonstani is a novel about a group of teenagers growing up in the predominantly Indian area of West London called Hounslow. From a geographical point of view it was literally very "close to home" for me. I work in Southall, just next to Hounslow and I live very close to it so I know the area pretty well and I know many people who have been raised in this environment.

From the first page, I was fixated by vivid descriptions of streets and buildings I am familiar with and language I hear every day. I could relate to so many of the situations faced by Jas, our narrator, and his friends as they all try to cope with their parents in the Anglo Asian culture. The average middle class white British reader may not appreciate the humour in some of these sections but I am not sure how many of these average people exist anyway.

Then, after I had become engrossed by the locations and the background, I got hooked by the actual plot. Gautam Malkani builds the story and I felt sympathy and hurt and heartache and anger as I went through all the trials and tribulations with Jas, our hero. The story builds to a surprise that made me flick back through the book to see if I had missed any obvious clues.

On at least a couple of occasions I laughed out aloud at the narrative, because it was funny, not because it was crap. It is so engrossing that, at times, I felt as if I was part of the novel rather than just the reader.

I did all this while recovering from laser surgery on my eyes so reading took me about 3 times longer than usual.

I reckon it's a book that Anglo Asians in particular will love but it's a story that could appeal to most so just buy it and read it. It's a number 4 for me. It's so high up in my ranking that i'll read it again, soon.


Savi said...

I'm reading londonstani at the moment and so far, I love it..quite the page-turner,it is

Will post about it as soon as I finish it.. :)

S said...

Gautam Malkarni contributes to my other blog, Pickledpolitics.com.

You should come and join us there ;)

Which week are you planning to hit SL in - I'm going at the end of Sept.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Hey S - I'll be there in the first week of Sept, that's the only week possible. You're going for a while aren't you?