Review Blog

Jul 24 2008

Gifted by Nikita Lalwani

cover image

Penguin 2008.
(Age 16+)
Adults reading this book may recall the child prodigy Ruth Lawrence beginning her Oxford degree at the tender age of thirteen. In this novel Rumi is coached by her father to fulfil a similar ambition. It's hard to believe this is a first novel and I'm not surprised it was long-listed for the Man Booker Award. The complex, brooding story is both heart wrenching and incredibly funny, demonstrating Lalwani's deep understanding of the human psyche. Nearly every emotion in the book is concealed; love, anger, hate, need. The incident where Rumi asks her Mother for a bra is quite savage, full of Shreene's suppressed rage and Rumi's anguish.

We first meet Rumi aged five when numbers are like beads; to be threaded into countless different patterns. Numbers are clearly friends, providing succour and support, but by the time she starts university at the age of 15, Rumi is a product of her parents' strict and merciless control and some kind of break down is inevitable.

Isolation is a recurring theme. Rumi's mother, Shreene takes a thermos flask to work so she can avoid the other women in the staff kitchen. Rumi is not permitted to invite friends home, and spends a soul destroying two hours after school each day studying alone in the public library.

Rumi's young life is an endless drudgery of study. Chess is one of the few games approved of by her father. Even a simple trip into town is turned into an educational minefield when Mahesh questions his daughter on everything from the German exchange rate to the Indian economy. As Rumi says, why can't they just have fun?

Her parents are not monsters, Mahesh and Shreene love their daughter and want what's best for her, but in such a misguided and brutal way you long to shake some sense into them. Mahesh, serious minded and diligent, manages to imbue a solo visit to Disney Land with such sombre gravity that I wanted to laugh and weep in equal measures.

There is so much to think about and discuss that I'm sure Gifted will be a must for many book clubs and it should certainly be required reading for AS and A Level literature students. Lalwani's next novel is due for release in 2009. I can't wait.
Claire Larson

Archived Blog Entries
Latest News
Environment Award for Children's Literature 2017
Book Week 2017 ideas - Escape to Everywhere
Speech Pathology shortlist 2017
2017 CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals
2017 Branford Boase Award
2017 UKLA Book Awards
Little Rebels Children's Book Award 2017
10th UK Waterstones Children's Laureate
UK Children's Book Award 2017
Laugh Out Loud Awards 2017 shortlist
2017 Locus Awards Winners
Miles Franklin longlist 2017

ReadPlus Features
Print similar authors bookmark
Read similar authors
How to find lesson plans
Sample theme animation

Promote Reading
Staff holiday reading list 2016
South Australian Christian Schools Conference 2016 - Library Displays
Display calendars
Value of School Libraries
Library, Reading development and the Internet
Free Rights of the Reader Poster
Reviews: Author index
Bookmark and poster templates