15 June, 2021

The Twain Collide

Genres thumb noses at each other in a delightful debut novel

The Twain Collide
FOR a nine-year-old Punjabi girl growing up in a backwater village in the Midlands in the '70s, life is a complicated business. How on earth can you be cool when you've got your cutesy cousins Pinky and Baby in tow? How do you sing the latest hits from Top of the Pops to the tune of your father's harmonium and your uncle's tabla? In short, how can you be English and Indian when life is constantly telling you: choose.

Like most first novels, Anita and Me is strongly autobiographical, but unlike most, it is not just the story of one person but an evocation of an entire era.

The working-class mining village of Tollington, where Meena Kumar grows up, is peopled with some sprightly, vivid characters. From Mrs Worrall next door, with her friendly potato of a face, tombstone teeth and invalid husband, to the raucous crew of women, known collectively as 'The Ballbearings Committee' who flirt outrageously with anything in trousers on their way to work.

Meena longs to escape from her humdrum existence into a world of tragedy and glamour, of...

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