I was sent a copy of Ravinder Randhawa’s new book about a week ago so that I could review it today. I was so excited by the description (taken from Amazon and edited slightly for this edition’s blurb):
In a bustling British city, decked out with NHS specs and Oxfam coat, Kulwant masquerades behind her old woman’s disguise, taking life or leaving it as she feels inclined, seeking new adventures and venturing back into her past. Divorced from her husband, disapproved of by her sons, mistrusted by their wives, Kulwant makes real contact through a jigsaw of meetings: with the Punjabi Punk who dusts her down after a carefully calculated fall, with Caroline, her gregarious friend from school days, who watched over her dizzy romance with Michael the archangel; with Maya the myopic who can’t see beyond her weeping heart, and with Rani/ Rosalind who’s just killed a man…
The first thing I have to say about is book is that reading it felt more like experiencing a poem than reading a simple story. Every word felt carefully considered and placed for maximum impact. There was no skim reading to get to the end of the page; your be missing out on a complex internal monologue.
It was very different to other books I’ve read recently, but not unpleasantly so. The characters needed little introduction and appeared fully formed somehow when I turned the page: reading this book felt like being a flu on the walk of someone’s memories and somehow Ravinder Randhawa managed to capture that hazy feeling of remembering for us to read.
I think part of that otherworldliness came from the viewpoint of an Indian character in a British city. As a white Brit living in a town with a moderately large Indian population I’m on the other side of this; I can’t even begin to pretend to understand the balance of cultures or the daily experiences of my Indian friends and neighbours living here… But I could argue that Ravinder does a wonderful job of expressing those feelings on the page.
It’s a very beautiful book, in many ways (it even feels wonderful to read. The edition Ravinder sent me is beautifully bound). And I feel it is also a very important book, existing in that overlap where cultures meet and where people tread a fine line between belonging and observing.
I’m very excited to have kicked off Ravinder’s tour, please do check out the rest to come!