Nikita Lalwani - The Village (4 stars)

A tense social drama about trust and betrayal, set in an Indian prison

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Nikita Lalwani - The Village

When Ray Bhullar travels to an Indian ‘open prison’ village to film a behind-the-scenes BBC documentary, she gets more than she bargained for. ‘Everyone here has killed someone,’ she’s told, as she slowly adapts to the sights and smells of her alien new surroundings, but ‘trust begets trust’. And so Nikita Lalwani introduces us to her second novel’s major theme, as broken promises and suspicion soon lead to life-altering relationship breakdowns.

The Village is a captivating read, as Lalwani plays with tense and form throughout, switching seamlessly between poetic prose, drama-laden script extracts, muddled-in-translation conversation and scenic snapshot imagery; her words seemingly pan across the Ashwer landscape, taking everything in.

The novel is as much an exploration of culture clashes and the cynicism of a reality TV-saturated modern media as it is one woman’s journey of self-discovery on her mission to uncover the truth. Simmering tensions boil over as worlds collide and dark secrets are revealed as the documentary veers off in unexpected directions, driving its makers and subjects apart and forcing them to face the differences between them.

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