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Savita Kalhan was born in India but moved to the UK when she was very young. She graduated with a joint honours degree in Politics and Philosophy from the University of Wales. She was a Batik artist and teacher before she turned to writing. Her debut novel, The Long Weekend, is described as an intensely compelling thriller which addresses the issue of stranger danger (published by Troika in 2020). Her most recent book was The Girl in the Broken Mirror published by Troika in 2018. Savita lives in London.
Recent research has highlighted the lack of diverse representation in central characters in books and films and more particularly that when they exist, they are there to highlight an ‘issue’ or social problem. So, this book is doubly important – not only do we have an Asian central character but the main issue at the heart of the book is the power of social media and the challenge to behave in an ethically responsible way- to do the right thing. The issue would have been the same with a white narrator. Added to that we have a joyous cast of characters reflecting the genuinely multiracial context in which real young people live. We have white, mixed race, Asian and Afro Caribbean best friends each humorously riffing on the foibles of their families’ culture and expectations. These are very real characters, high achievers who are not afraid to have fun. The author runs her own teenage reading group and her ear for dialogue is impeccable. Of course, there is a darker, thought provoking side too. Jeevan knows his female English teacher has it in for him and suspects this derives from an innate racism and when the opportunity to record an in flagrante liaison presents itself, this proves irresistible but is almost immediately regretted. Nothing is simplistically handled; all the moral nuances are thoroughly explored through Jeevan’s interactions with his friends and family. Even the implied sexism of exposing a female while protecting a more favoured male teacher becomes a very real issue. Research has demonstrated that low expectations of pupils of colour can be a real barrier to their achievement and it can be all too easy for schools to fall into this sort of systemic racism. But this is a school that, like Jeevan, can come good in the end. A book to confound and challenge expectations as well as to genuinely entertain.
May 2018 Book of the Month | | When Jay’s father died, her life imploded in every way imaginable. Not only did she lose her vibrant, supportive dad, but she and her mum also lost their comfortable life. Her mum’s now struggling to pay the rent and although Jay helps out by working, it’s not enough to make ends meet so they’re forced to move in with relatives. Jay’s formidable Aunty Vimala demands strict adherence to traditional Indian values - girls must work hard around the home, and definitely must not have male friends. Boys, on the other hand, such as Aunty Vimala’s sons, are afforded freedoms and can do no wrong. Jay and her mother cook and clean to pay their way alongside trying to keep up with their respective ways out - in Jay’s case, this means doing well at school in order to go to university, while her mum is training to be a teacher. Already trapped and isolated, Jay’s situation plummets further when she’s brutally assaulted by a relative. Her experience and response to this terrible event are powerfully conveyed, as is her traumatic journey to recovery. She’s left feeling broken, and this in turn threatens to break her relationship with her mum. This is an unflinching, multi-layered exposition of male privilege, male abuses of women, and the clash of cultures. With hard-hitting clarity it also shows how girls are silenced, made to feel ashamed of their bodies, ashamed of wrongs done to them. Ultimately this is poignant personal story of a girl’s fight to rebuild and re-connect with herself and those who love her after a truly harrowing experience.