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China Room: The heartstopping and beautiful novel, longlisted for the Booker Prize 2021 Kindle Edition
A story of forbidden love that echoes across generations - from the prize-winning author of The Year of the Runaways.
'A gorgeous, gripping read' Kamila Shamsie
'A multi-generational masterpiece' Daily Mail
* A Book of the Year for The Times, Guardian and Daily Telegraph *
Mehar, a young bride in rural Punjab, is trying to discover the identity of her new husband. It is 1929, and she and her sisters-in-law - married to three brothers in a single ceremony - spend their days hard at work on the family farm, sequestered from contact with the men. When Mehar develops a theory as to which of them is hers, a passion is ignited that will put more than one life at risk.
Spiralling around Mehar's story is that of a young man who in 1999 flees from England to the deserted sun-scorched farm. Can a summer spent learning of love and of his family's past give him the strength for the journey home?
Readers love China Room
***** 'I didn't want it to end'
***** 'What. A. Book.'
***** 'Beautifully crafted...a story as old as time'
***** 'A novel of thwarted loves'
Shortlisted for the 2022 Rathbones Folio Prize
Longlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize
Longlisted for the 2022 Walter Scott Prize
Longlisted for the 2021 Ondaatje Prize
'Amazing storytelling...gripping and very moving' BBC Radio 4, Open Book
'I'm blown away by it' Tessa Hadley
'The stuff of miracles' Bryan Washington
'Moving...fresh and nourishing' The Times
China Room is a rare novel that makes you pause in its beauty. -- Francesca Carington ― Sunday Telegraph, *Novel of the Week*
Sahota is a truly original novelist, his prose sparingly precise in its beauty, steeped in kindness and deep humanity. -- Ruth Scurr ― TLS
With poise, restraint and deep intelligence,Sahota feeds us big, difficult themes - segregation and freedom, revolution and empire - in a form that is unsweetened, fresh and nourishing. Surely this, his third novel, will propel him up the shortlists to the prizewinning status he deserves. -- Melissa Katsoulis ― The Times, 'This Book Will Win Prizes'
Sahota combines great writing with amazing storytelling... his books are intelligent and beautifully written and very poised but also incredibly immersive, gripping and very moving. An epic in miniature, China Room is the kind of novel that reminds you why you fell in love with reading in the first place. -- Open Book ― BBC Radio 4 --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
About the Author
- ASIN : B08HWH147W
- Publisher : Vintage Digital (6 May 2021)
- Language : English
- File size : 3982 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 247 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: 10,870 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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A strange affair really. This leads to a huge lie and a love affair.
The other story is of a great grandson , returning to his homeland to kick his drug habit. He ends up at the old family farm. Here he recovers , falls in love and paints the buildings, the shade of pink which it was painted for his great grandmother.
He says goodbye to his love the Dr and returns to England.
The affair is found out , the lovers are escaping . His brother has arranged for him to be taken by a local political army. She is returned to the China room , Windows barred, never to see him again. Pregnant with his child.
Her husband goes on to provide her with 5 of his own.
The China room remains barred to the present day. She waves the red banner as he leaves for England, her great grandson.
TW⚠️ - Racism, discussion of intravenous illicit drug use, domestic abuse, self harm and sexual assault.
The story is split between two different time periods.
The first is the late 1920’s in rural Punjab, where Mehar and two other girls are married to three brothers in a single ceremony. They are not told which of the men is their husband, but Mehar is determined to find out.
The second is 1999, when Mehar’s great grandson travels to the farm which Mehar lived, in order to detox from Heroin. During his time there, he reflects on the struggles of his own life and also what took place at the farm years before.
Both Mehar and her nephew are isolated and lonely, but have the resilience and strong personal identity to remain hopeful.
The novel is fiction, but was inspired by Sahota’s own family history.
This novel is only 240 pages, but wow, it did what it needed to do!
The writing built up the atmosphere of the location in both time settings. It discussed the cultures and traditions of 1920’s Punjab and doesn’t shy away from the shocking brutality of it. When we are then taken to 1999, it is thought provoking to see that while it is now a more ‘modern world’, so so much really hasn’t changed at all. A lack of women’s rights and racism are still ongoing and still are to this day.
This novel tackles some difficult themes, but at the heart it shows that women in Punjab were completely at the mercy of the men and elders. It also touches on the Indian fight for independence from the British which was taking place at the time.
Despite the topics, the book is not too heavy, it really drew me in to the story. I enjoyed following as Mehar fell in love, although I ultimately already knew how it would end, I still willed for love to conquer all.
As to the novel, a mystery to be solved is set up in the book's first line, 15 year old Mehar doesn’t know which of three brothers is her husband. Mehar is living with the other two wives - Harbans and Gurleen in rural India we guess not far from Lahore in 1929. The three girls all married on the same day but do not know which husband they are married to. These young wives spend their days working and waiting for their mother-in-law to signal for one of them to go and sleep with her husband and, it is hoped, become pregnant with a son. The meetings are in complete darkness with very little speech so the wives try to guess which of the brothers they are married to while they meet for sex in the ‘China room’ a small out building - the name from the willow-pattern plates on a shelf the remnants of a dowry from the mother in law.
‘How posh she talks’ is an odd phrase for a fifteen year old to use in rural India in 1929 where no impression is given of mixing with the colonial administration ‘posh’ of all the English colonial words to use in this book by this character felt so at odds with the place and setting - especially at the bewilderment of trying to pour tea back into a teapot spout rather than lifting the lid.
The book has twin narratives - past and present and reminded me of ‘Heat & Dust by by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. The sections of the book set in the UK n the recent past gives more of a feeling of time and place than the chapters set in 1929. The struggle, hardwork and prejudice against immigrants trying to settle along with coping with the generational divides of children born in the country and parents clinging onto memories is well written. The harrowing part of the book set in 1929 shows how limited and barren the lives of women were along with the expectations from life. I somehow wanted more - not a historical novel but something that gave a feeling of time and place.
Mehar thinks she has identified which of the three brothers is her husband - and her assumption puts her on a path to disaster. We get a hint of that in the more modern part of the story where a young British-Indian man trying to get rid of heroin addiction travels back to the home of his ancestors - the same farm Mehar was living in - and begins to uncover their history.
Sahota is an author who is capable of writing very different novels, equally well. His style is pleasingly succinct whilst also being evocative. I particularly loved the story about Mehar and found her and some of the supporting characters very sympathetic. You feel transported to the places that Sahota describes. The way that women were treated (and possibly still are in some places today) is shocking and sad, and yet Mehar and her sisters-in-law accept their lot without complaint and get on with making the best out of their situation.
The reader is much more aware than Mehar is of the fate looming over her, and sometimes that can make a book uncomfortable to read. But I don't think it does here - it makes it compelling and moving. The word that comes most to my mind when I recall this story is 'beautiful' and I think that is to do with the quality of the writing rather than the subject matter.
The modern day story I found less compelling, perhaps because the characters are less appealing or because the story was less unusual. But I do like that Sahota doesn't give trite easy answers or fairytale resolutions. There were a couple of plot aspects that I thought would work out in a certain predictable way but didn't, and I think that gives a story more authenticity. It also gives a frame and a contrast for what I considered the main or real story about Mehar and her predicament.
If you want to read a compelling, really well written classic story, this is a great choice. Sahota is an author that I think will go from strength to strength and eventually be celebrated as one of the greats.