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Very well written story about a part of our society we rather forget about. This book has given a voice to illegal immigrants living in the shadows. Highly recommended read.
16 of 16 people found this review helpful
This lengthy audiobook really makes you think about those desperate illegal 'runaways', exploited by loan sharks and escaping from the country of their birth to find a better life in England. That sounds like a polemical novel, but it's not that, it's a deeply compassionate, coruscating story of three young Indian men - Tochi, Randeep and Avtar - who are willing to suffer hideous hardship, intense loneliness and exploitation in order to work, work, work for a better life and support their families back 'home'.
These three men live in a squalid house in Sheffield with nine other Indian migrants, and the first part of the audiobook fills out their back stories in India. The details are filmic and vivid, and the characters burst out, helped by Sartaj Garewal's fluent narration and capture of accents. Tochi, an Untouchable in Bihar, finally manages to hire a rickshaw and scrapes a living as its driver to support his family after his father loses both arms in an accident. That is until atrocious massacres engulf his family and he is left with nothing. Randeep works nights in a bleak call centre and married troubled, British-born Narinder previously unknown to him in order to get into Britain. Avtar is told to 'follow the others' away from 'this benighted country' if he is to stand a chance of a better life - and sells one of his kidneys to help pay the loan sharks to finance his journey.
In England, their lives are grindingly harsh. They struggle to find work which will pay them a fraction of the minimum wage on hazardous construction sites, in factories and fast food outlets. They must earn enough to feed themselves - badly - and send money home to support their families and pay off the loan sharks. When Avtar is crippled with pain from complications following his kidney removal, he's too terrified to go to the doctor: discovery and police raids are a constant fear. But despite the undeniable misery of these men's lives, there is tremendous energy and vitality. It raises huge issues - made the more pertinent considering the vast numbers of refugees and migrants who have poured into Europe since this book was published in the summer - but never preaches or polemicizes. The message is in all the searing details.
Listen to it - your eyes will be opened and won't shut again.
28 of 29 people found this review helpful