Slowly, slowly, I’m working my way up that pile of books (although of course it’s my original pile and “The Accidental Apprentice” was abandoned weeks ago (see my page for the project for the up-to-date list). This is actually Book 10 – so it’s a bit of a shame it’s the last day of the second month rather than half-way through the month. And look at the satisfying but also slightly intimidating size of those Viragoes and Persephones to come in August. Gulp.

I have also finished “King of the North Wind” and submitted my review to Shiny New Books, so look out for my link to my review in due course.

So, here’s my review of Book 10 in the project, one of two I bought in Oxfam in October while, presumably, shopping for LibraryThing Virago Group Secret Santa ideas.

Prajwal Parajuly – “Land Where I Flee”

(25 October 2017 – Oxfam)

In a book which on paper I should have loved, three siblings fly in to Sikkim in Northern India, two from the US and one from the UK, to celebrate their grandmother’s 84th birthday. Two have gone against what would be traditionally expected of them (neither on purpose) but only one’s “error” is known; the other has made a “good” marriage but is desperately unhappy.

We learn a lot about the lives of Northern Indian hijras (the intersex/transgender/trans people who make their living dancing at weddings and other events, in this case a eunuch who uses feminine pronouns and is both exploited and exploiter; this group now has a legal position as the third gender in India), and the difficulties of the Nepali people and those calling for an independent Gorkhaland State (this I knew nothing about), but the book is made a bit uncomfortable-feeling, in my eyes, by the author being from that area and his own author character mining Prasanti for details of her hijra experience. There’s metafiction and then there’s weird grubbiness, somehow. This metafictional character and a really distasteful scene with another character which seemed only put in to echo a scene in the writer character’s book (told you!) really did undermine the book for me; I loved the Caucasian American character and especially the fact that he’s essentially unchanged by his experience in India, which I thought was subtle but very clever, but things don’t really resolve enough for the lover of a family intercultural saga book or in fact for other kinds of readers.

I think the book had too much it wanted to say and get across, and in the process, the characters, even though they should have had plenty to them, fell a bit flat. It was OK, but as it was on paper the perfect book for me, that wasn’t quite enough for me.

This was Book 10 in my #20BooksOfSummer project.

I’m currently reading Becky Wade’s “Run the World”, which is irresistibly about visiting different running cultures around the world and has already featured parkrun, and I’m going to save Gurjinder Basran’s “Everything Was Good-Bye” until the end of the project, after the Viragoes and Persephones, because it felt a bit too similar to this one in terms of culture clashes and unconventional marriages (which is why it was dropped in the first round of choices and only made it back in with the removal of “Accidental Apprentice”.