Home > Romance, Senior Fiction, War > City of Ghosts by Bali Rai

City of Ghosts by Bali Rai

City of Ghosts by Bali Rai. Pub. Random House, 2009.

This novel was a joy to read from beginning to end. I have never read a novel like it and it differs markedly from the first novel I read by Bali Rai called (un) arranged marriage.

Firstly it is an historical novel, set in Amristar in the time of the British Raj just after the First World War and during the Riots of Amritsar that changed the lives of all the characters in this novel.

Rai’s portrait of India under the Raj is a delight and the British attitude to India can be summed up in one sentence – when one of the British Senior Army Officers is told of a disturbance by Indian agitators he remarks “”this country drives me insane. I’m taking my first drink earlier and earlier each day”

Secondly this novel is a love story, well two of them really, both tainted with “star crossed lovers” from the start. One between a poor orphan boy Gurdial, and a rich man’s daughter Sohni. They love each other and it seems they don’t have a chance because of opposition from Sohni’s father and interference from Sohni’s step mother who is real bad egg.

The second romance is between an Indian Sikh soldier who fought for the British in the trenches of France, and an English girl. The descriptions of war in the trenches and the decision making by British Officers are very powerful and daming.

Finally it is a portrait of the rise of a revolutionary group within India to fight against British rule. The tactics used could easily be seen as similar to those adopted by El Qaeda or the Taliban or any of todays revolutionary groups.

Structured in seven parts each section is brilliantly conceived and the language used will have you gasping for superlatives. Just one of the best books I have read for a long time, and so different. Check Bali Rai out he is an exceptional writer.

But he does have a thing about onions. Check and find out!

Senior secondary in appeal but good readers who are younger will also enjoy this novel.

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