China Room by Sunjeev Sahota review – from northern England to Punjab

An alienated youth travels to remote rural India, where his great-grandmother lived in 1929, in Sahota’s hushed and subtle third novel

It’s a decade since Sunjeev Sahota published his debut novel, Ours Are the Streets, a bravura piece of imaginative intensity that took the form of a journal written by a would-be suicide bomber, a British Muslim of Pakistani descent, for his wife, a white British woman, and their child. The reader never discovered whether the planned explosion in a Sheffield shopping centre took place; that was peripheral to Sahota’s primary aim of exploring the cultural alienation and isolation that, in this instance, led his protagonist to radicalisation and violence.

The occasional narrator of Sahota’s third novel, China Room, is also alienated and isolated, though his response is to turn his violent unhappiness inward; at 18, he is in the throes of heroin addiction. His account of a summer spent in rural Punjab is interspersed with the more substantial third-person story of a young woman in 1929, whom we later learn was his great-grandmother.

Continue reading...


‘My “sad girl” fans concern me’: Ottessa Moshfegh in conversation with Carmen Maria Machado

The author of My Year of Rest and Relaxation talks to fellow US writer about memoir v fiction, depic...

Read More >

The Men by Sandra Newman review – vision of a world without men

Half of humanity disappears in this disturbing study of loss, grief and moral sacrificeIn Sandra New...

Read More >

Either/Or by Elif Batuman review – adventures in literature and life

The further chronicles of a Turkish-American student in the 1990s showcase a wonderfully idiosyncrat...

Read More >

NoViolet Bulawayo: ‘I’m encouraged by this new generation that wants better’

The Booker-shortlisted author talks about Zimbabwe after Mugabe - and drawing on Orwell for her bril...

Read More >

Mother’s Boy by Howard Jacobson review – a captivatingly melodramatic memoir

The writer’s account of his tortured journey to adulthood is wildly lacking in proportion, and all ...

Read More >

‘It felt horrific to be in Britain as a Muslim after 9/11’: Pankaj Mishra and Kamila Shamsie in conversation

The writers discuss problems of representation, class, the culture wars and how fiction is a great w...

Read More >