BOOK REVIEW: Inheritance (Balli Kaur Jaswal, Sleepers)

Told through the eyes of a Punjabi Sikh family and set in Singapore between the 1970s and the 1990s, this bold debut tells the intersecting stories of a family and a nation—both struggling to survive the onslaught of change. Narain’s father is sending him to America in the hope that studying engineering will cure him of the ‘sexual deviance’ which marred his army service. Fifteen-year-old Amrit seems like a typical teenager, acting up and hanging around boys, but as her life starts to spiral out of control, her rapid and devastating decline has far-reaching effects. Gurdev and his wife are raising a new generation of girls who are pushing back against the confines of their world. Focus switches deftly between chapters as characters reveal their private tragedies, and at one point it did feel as though the story would tip over into melodrama; fortunately, it did not. This is a novel with large themes including identity and multiculturalism; repression and individuality; superstition and the stigma of mental illness; shame, disappointment and regret; desire and mania; and love and grief. Ultimately about defiance, survival and self-acceptance, it is surprisingly hopeful. This is highly recommended and will appeal to readers of novels such as Monica Ali’s Brick Lane and Zadie Smith’s White Teeth.

Paula Grunseit is a freelance journalist, editor and reviewer. This review first appeared in the Summer 2012/13 issue of Bookseller+Publisher Magazine. View more pre-publication reviews here.

Bestsellers this week

In the lead up to the 2012 Olympics in London, a key member of the Games’ organising committee is ruthlessly murdered. The London branch of renowned investigation agency Private is called in to investigate and, as the most talented athletes in the world gather together, it soon becomes clear that the killer is on a mission to end the Games forever. James Patterson’s Private Games (Century) is top of the highest new entries chart this week followed by Tami Hoag’s Down the Darkest Road (Hachette). Jeff Kinney‘s Cabin Fever: Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Puffin), featuring 13-year-old Greg Heffley who is trapped indoors with his family during a blizzard, is still number one on the bestsellers chart  followed again by Inheritance (Christopher Paolini, Doubleday). Topping the fastest movers chart are NAPLAN-style Tests (Pascal Press)–Weekly Book Newsletter.

Bestsellers this week

Kay Scarpetta is on a mission to get to the bottom of the murder of her former deputy chief Jack Fielding. While following a lead at a women’s prison, she uncovers links in a series of other seemingly unrelated murders, which in turn point to a potential international terrorism conspiracy. Red Mist (Hachette), Patricia Cornwell’s 19th novel in the Scarpetta series, is top of the fastest movers chart this week followed by Guinness World Records 2012 (Guinness World Records). In the lead up to the festive season, the top five bestselling books are Cabin Fever: Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Jeff Kinney, Puffin), still in first place, followed by Inheritance (Christopher Paolini, Doubleday) in second and The Opal Desert (Di Morrissey, Macmillan) in third. Donna Hay’s Simple Dinners (HarperCollins) is fourth on the chart, followed by Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs (Hachette) in fifth place.The Scottish Prisoner (Diana Gabaldon, Hachette) is at the top of the highest new entries chart–Weekly Book Newsletter.