Gifted (3 stars)

NIKITA LALWANI

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Gifted (Viking)

COMING OF AGE DRAMA

The phenomenon of mathematical child prodigies is fascinating. First-time novelist Nikita Lalwani makes just such a character the centrepiece of her assured debut, as we grow up with Rumi, brought up in Cardiff by Indian parents. At five years old, Rumi is told that she is gifted, and through a regime of study enforced by her strict father, winds up at Oxford University a decade later.

So far so good, and there’s much to admire about Gifted with Lalwani’s prose confident and vivid, and her central character wonderfully depicted. But there is a rather aimless quality to the first half of this book which fails to drive things along, and it’s only once we get to the teenage Rumi - addicted to cumin seeds, experiencing puberty and discovering boys - that things come to a head and become properly engaging. Nevertheless, this is a solid debut which promises much for the future.

(Doug Johnstone)

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