Written in the style of a memoir, this is harsh and bleak and very honest in a way that softens it slightly. People are continually hateful to each other and yet seem to, almost inexplicably, still care deeply about each other. Karim, who introduces himself as ‘an Englishman born and bred, almost’, goes through the wretched business of growing up with all the awkwardness and unpleasantness laid out in graphic detail. The details make this the great read it is, despite a plot I’m not entirely enamoured by. All the little nods to life in Britain in the 1970s, the current events, the fashions and the music, all give this a feeling of authenticity and being a lived experience rather than a work of fiction. Although certain elements seem fantastical or outrageous, it is always kept just within the realm of possibility and makes for an intriguing read.
On the intensity of a first crush
I admired him more than anyone but I didn’t wish him well. It was that I preferred him to me and wanted to be him.
‘You know Changez, love can be very much like stupidity’‘Love is love, and it is eternal. You don’t have romantic love in the West any more. You just sing about it on the radio.’
On the American impression of the English
‘Well then, can’t you stop standing there and looking so English?’‘What d’you mean, English?’‘So shocked, so self-righteous, and moral, so loveless and incapable of dancing.’
From: the library, in a brilliantly practical plastic jacket.
Read: while hiding from the rain in a cafe.
Felt: not very fond of the protagonist but unwillingly drawn in
Liked: that Karim is so undeniably British an the realism. This book is really well written, even if I didn’t like the whole plot.
Would recommend: to those who want a window into growing up in the UK in the 70s and juggling two cultures.