International Writers Magazine: Review
by Gautam Malkani,
Harper Perennial, 2007
Paperback: 342 pp
with strong colours and fast action. Written in the first person,
with a believable and strong dialogue, this novels vivid imagery
jumps out of the page like a Roy Lichtenstein cartoon. Within the
first few pages, the author immerses us in modern London-Asian patois,
brash machismo and self-conscious fashion sense.
The world of middle-class
suburban young Asians is, inevitably, divided into Hindu/Sikh and Muslim
factions in which, designer clothes, expensive cars and hi-tech mobile
phones are important factors. In amusing street language that can at
the beginning be hard to understand, we follow the adventures of 19-year-old
Jas and his band of desi friends. (Desi is the word used by the young
generation of British born Asians to mean "countryman" but
it is more cultural than ethnic, and compares with the term Latino as
opposed to Hispanic.)
Malkanis first novel comes recommended by his Oxbridge and Financial
Times background as well as being short-listed for the Writer of the
Year British Book Award 2007. A product of his degree dissertation research,
this lively satire examines young male Asians dilemma in confronting
not only their parents aspirational respectability and their obsession
with tradition, but also the pressures of living in a consumerist society.
Their answer is to create their own culture. This book examines Londons
multiculturalism but is not afraid of laughing at its more absurd aspects.
The young protagonist has decided to embrace a lifestyle that borrows
some of the worst aspects of black street culture, namely machismo,
misogyny and homophobia. He follows the diktats of this thuggish culture
and its mistrust of learning to the extent of subduing his own intellect.
Every boys and particularly young Asian males terror of
overbearing mothers and formidable "aunties" is neatly highlighted
in Jass candid running commentary. However, despite the focus
on youth culture, the author maintains that he did not write this work
with any particular market in mind. A few chapters into the book the
reader might agree, as this novel would appeal to anyone who wants to
be provoked into taking a closer look at multiculturalism.
The author writes confidently and intimately, allowing the reader to
get close to Jass feelings and schemes. Although only Jas is allowed
to develop, the description of other characters perception of
their world is both amusing and absorbing and offers us a revealing
window into a new, suburban British Asian culture.
There are disturbing moments, such as the opening sequence, which starts
with the vicious beating of a white boy and farcical ones, like the
description of the cool, savvy ringleader, "cruising" in his
BMW, playing loud music and intimidating other drivers, as he meekly
accepts a telephone shopping list from his mum.
When Jas falls in love with a liberated Muslim girl and begins to assert
himself to his friends, things very quickly go wrong. Towards the conclusion,
black comedy develops into something more serious and the final (and
unexpected) twist in the story kicks Jas into reality when he finds
out that there is truth in the old adage about the non-existence of
a free lunch.
A novel bursting with originality, insight and freshness.
Dover November 2007
all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibiltiy
- no liability accepted by hackwriters.com or affiliates.