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Londonstani Paperback – August 28, 2007


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (August 28, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143112287
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143112280
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.8 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,567,811 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Malkani's debut novel is set among the South Asian rudeboys of London's Houndslow section. Aimless, middle-class 19-year-old Jas is adopted by a small gang headed by Hardjit, a Sikh bodybuilder, that includes sexual braggart Ravi and Hindu nationalist Amit. The crew, with Jas in the backseat, ride around a lot in a Beamer and say things like, "Dat bitch b trouble, u get me?" To make money, they unblock stolen cell "fones." This attracts Sanjay, a Desi entrepreneur who hires them and organizes their activities. Briefly, the money rolls in, and Jas, taken under Sanjay's wing, makes the more hazardous move of courting the beauteous but Muslim Samira Ahmed. Hardjit's feeling about Muslims and Samira's brothers' feeling about Hindus mean that disaster starts mounting for Jas before you can hum a chorus of West Side Story. Malkani, who is director of the Financial Times's Creative Business section, follows such masters of the London subcultural slumming sendup as Martin Amis and Will Self, but this book doesn't have the verbal gear to keep up; Jas's strained, graffiti-like teen talk is wearying (as is a major plot point centered on the EU's value added tax) and never rises to the kind of Burroughsian lyricism one is hoping for. And a final twist on race isn't much of a surprise. (June 26)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From The New Yorker

London's second-generation Asians are given the "Trainspotting" treatment in this slang-driven first novel, about four "desis" ("our own word for homeboy") who fight and preen in the backwater borough of Hounslow. Jas, the teen-age narrator, was a "dickless khota" before being taken under the muscled wing of the self-styled gangsta Hardjit, and his painstaking efforts to emulate his cohorts' "rudeboy finesse" are related in illuminating detail: facial hair should look "drawn on with a felt-tip pen" and riding in a Beemer requires staring "out the window like some big dumb dog with a big slobbery tongue." The incessant blend of boyish patois and text-message speak ("we had 2 call Davinder b4 we left dis place, innit") is captivating, but the plot becomes overwrought and absurd when the boys stumble into the world of high-stakes crime.
Copyright © 2006 The New Yorker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

This novel was a great read and made me laugh out loud at times!
Zehra Patwa
I found the dialect difficult to understand, and most of the book is dialect without much in the way of background.
Lorne A. Runge
I heard about this book on NPR, and it sounded really interesting.
A. Hardison

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By illnoise on October 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Londonstani starts out great, with a realistic (realistic-feeling to an outsider, anyway) look at a newly-affluent youth culture getting in trouble in London, along the lines of Quadrophenia or Absolute Beginners (the baddie is a desi Vendice Partners). The first half is great and original, with dialogue reminiscent of The Committments, and the plot thickens nicely, but by the end it dissolves into Scarface cliches and a crying-in-a-rainy-cemetery scene. In the last couple chapters, the plot gets less and less realistic (a typical situation where anyone but a fictional character would just leave town, commit suicide, or go to the police) but still holds together well, and the book would get four stars if it wasn't completely ruined by a cheap, irrelevant M. Night Shamalayn surprise-ending in the last couple pages that negates the signifigance of the rest of the story.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By PCM2 on July 29, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This was a good read. Much of the book is written in dialect, similar to how Irvine Welsh captures the Scots accents of his characters, so it helps if you're at least passingly familiar with British slang and idioms. But if you can get over the occasional stumble (and there is a glossary in the back), _Londonstani_ is an insightful and educational look into the desi subculture in London.

While it's true that the book features crime, and "gangsta" type characters, it is not an exploitation novel. In truth, it's more _The Outsiders_ than _Goodfellas,_ with even a few _Catcher in the Rye_ moments. Malkani knows his characters and he makes them believable, flawed and human.

Watch out, also, for Malkani's tricks of the language. There are more than a few sudden turns here, where you think you know what's going on throughout an entire chapter, and not until the very last paragraph do you realize that what you thought was going on was really something else again. Indeed, it's not until the very end of the book that we realize the full tragic proportions of Malkani's troubled main character.

Recommended. I look forward to Malkani's next book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Zehra Patwa on August 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I found the writing to be hard going at first as it is written in true "rudeboy" slang but, once over that hurdle, the novel was positively addictive! I am a former native of Hounslow but was not exposed to the kind of life described here except through the odd glimpse on Hounslow High Street and in the Treaty Centre. And based on that small glimpse, the lives of these boys did seem to ring quite true.

Although the initial acceptance of Jas into the rudeboy group seems unlikely, it doesn't detract from the story and the twist at the end had me flipping back through the book to see if I could spot any clues. But of course, there were no clues which is what made the twist so surprising!

Malkani's clever writing makes you comfortable then throws in twists which can sometimes shock. His description of two separate occasions melded into one was particularly interesting.

This novel was a great read and made me laugh out loud at times! It may not be the perfect novel but life is flawed so why should we expect writing to be flawless?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By S. Khattak on August 6, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Malkani does an excellent job of immersing the reader in the British desi subculture and his mixing of Hindi, Urdu, and English slang makes for an interesting read however, the twist at the end was a cop-out. So much so that I felt cheated after I finished the book. What does occur does not make much sense given what we are told about Hardjit, Amit and Ravi and the other desi characters. I really believe the book would have been a lot stronger if Malkani had stuck to one theme instead of trying to be all things to all people. Of course, he cannot give us a solution to what many desis face today: how to respect the past but live a life of one's choice but Malkani completely sidesteps the issue in his ending. In short: I loved the first two-thirds of the book and then felt robbed by the denouement. I would still recommend people read it for the sociological aspect and for understanding the other half of desi youth culture that isn't focused on the stereotypical academic achievement path.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Sirin on October 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Londonstani is an interesting and powerful debut novel. Telling the story of Asians in Britain not as a 'life in the ghetto' expose but as upwardly mobile middle class kids who rebel against their traditionalist family backgrounds by affecting a kind of rude boy image, replete with body building, facial hair sculpting, valuing money and consumer goods and generally trying to assert their masculinity on the world in a naive manner hits a lot of chords.

The Desi patois is slick and skilfully done. The author has clearly researched his social group and knows a great deal about the sociological and economic factors that influence the kids in Hounslow (he is, after all a Cambridge educated Financial Times journalist). There is a wicked twist at the end which is alluded to at several points in the book (see if you can spot it - but no peeking). Some of the narrative is a little too ideas laced - as if the writer had several different sociological themes he wanted to shoehorn into the plot. But it is an important and interesting addition to Asian themed literature in London and deserving of its wide acclaim.
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