Book review: The Village by Nikita Lalwani
January 31, 2015 10 Comments
From the publishers: “After a long trip from London, twenty-seven-year-old BBC filmmaker Ray Bhullar arrives at the remote Indian village of Ashwer, which will be the subject of her newest documentary. From the outside, the town projects a cozy air of domesticity—small huts bordering earthen paths, men lounging and drinking tea, women guiding bright cloth through noisy sewing machines. Yet Ashwer is far from traditional. It is an experimental open prison, a village of convicted murderers and their families.
As Ray and her crew settle in, they seek to win the trust of Ashwer’s residents and administrators: Nandini, a women’s counselor and herself an inmate; Jyoti, a prisoner’s wife who is raising her children on the grounds; Sujay, the progressive founder and governor of the society. Ray aims to portray Ashwer as a model of tolerance, yet the longer she and her colleagues stay, the more their need for a dramatic story line intensifies. And as Ray’s moral judgment competes with her professional obligation, her assignment takes an uneasy and disturbing turn.”
The Village: What I thought
I liked the idea of the book and the idea of visiting an open prison in India. I didn’t like the main character, though. Ray was a rather egocentric person, who, although Indian and able to speak the local language, seemed to feel more out of place than her colleagues. She suffers with stomach upsets and the local people find her accent strange. And the fact that she is vegetarian is considered with suspicion. Ray’s personal life goes from bad to worse, as does her professional credibility.
She tries to get people to talk about their life but her boss back in England doesn’t find it interesting enough. So, meetings are arranged between people who do not want to meet and people are pushed into doing things they don’t want to do, just because of the program.
The villagers are all prisoners (murderers) who behave with integrity, really trying to get their life in order, while the English interlopers spend their time trying to bring about some drama and cause trouble among the locals.
I would have liked to see some more local flavour to this story. Of course, the reader learns about the prison and about certain Indian customs, but in general, the book is too much about Ray and her worries and sorrows.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars (okay)
Number of pages: 272
First published: 2012
I got this: won it online
Genre: Contemporary fiction