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Archive for August 2017

Book review: Western Fringes

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When I read the blurb of Western Fringes – a Muslim man trying to find a Sikh woman who has run away from home to escape an arranged marriage – I admit that I was sceptical  at first. I thought, not another cliche that is often played out in Bollywood movies; they’ll probably end up marrying one another and showing love triumphs all.

Not quite.

A woman I follow on Twitter had recently received a copy of the book by the author, Amer Anwar, and when I expressed interest he also sent kindly sent me a copy, along with a masala chai teabag. I wanted to read it on holiday but unfortunately it arrived in the post just after I had left, so I had wait until I returned to read it.

Western Fringes is set in the bustling, diverse district of Southall – often described as ‘little India’ due to its large Sikh population.  It tells the story of Zaqir (Zak) Khan, an ex-con who works in a dead-end job at a builder’s yard.  One day his boss, the formidable Mr Brar, calls him into the office and orders him to find his runaway daughter Rita, or he’ll send him back to prison.  Mr Brar’s meathead sons Rajinder and Parminder are ordered to keep an eye on him but they have their own agenda in Zaq’s search for Rita and don’t make it easy for him.

This is Amer Anwar’s debut novel, which won the Crime Writer Association’s Debut Dagger award. I was entertained and engaged throughout the novel and found it very hard to put down. Although most of the characters are South Asian, they were  unique and far removed from the stereotypes.  Frankly, it is not the genre of book that I usually go for so I was unsure how I would respond do it. Nonetheless, I gave it a chance and I am glad I did.

The story also goes into the historic tensions that have existed between Muslims and Sikhs and how they have an impact even here in the UK. Being of Pakistani heritage I am aware of these issues but non Asian readers might find this aspect of the novel interesting.

What I loved most about the book was the hilarious banter between Zak and his best friend and partner in crime Jags; it is probably the best thing about the book. In fact, I think a sitcom could be made, centered around these two protagonists. Something for TV producers to consider – if it happens, you heard it here first.

The book is littered with some Punjabi phrases which I understood perfectly well, though I am sure non Punjabi speakers will get the gist. Punjabi curse words are so rough that they have the potential to raise the dead so don’t worry if you don’t understand – that may not be such a bad thing!

One of my criticisms is that I would have liked to have known more about Zak’s family and how his prison sentence affected their relationship with him. Furthermore,the other characters are described in detail, while no description is given of Zak – perhaps that was deliberate?

Nonetheless, I was surprised that this was a debut novel as it is written very well and does not read amateurish in any way. I highly recommend it for anyone wanting to read a crime fiction novel with a bit of a twist.

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Written by Iram Ramzan

August 16, 2017 at 3:55 pm

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