Almost at the finishing line on the Bookerthon and Gifted by Nikita Lalwani has been the book that has held up to the very worst sort of reading attention here at dgr scribbles especially as the cover doesn't blend with our decor at all. Taken to work and read for half an hour over lunch in my car, a bit more here and there, a longer read and few more snippets on a train and then the final push for the last page.
To finish a book uninterrupted is one of life's luxuries and if I know it's unlikely to happen I'll put it down five pages from the end and come back to it rather than spoil that moment. I suspect most writers sweat blood over their beginnings and their endings and I like to take my time and appreciate their efforts.
So how does all this relate to Gifted?
Well I suspect that like me this stop-start approach is how many people have to read and so a book that will stand up to this rigorous testing has to be good.This one is and deserving of the Booker longlist spotlight.Pick it up after a gap and you are immediately back in the flow.
Poor Rumi Vasi is a gifted child, a genius at maths born into an Indian family living in Cardiff .Feeling they have much to prove, her parents start her off young on the fateful course that will catapult her into Oxford at the age of fifteen.Numbers become Rumi's way of life and everything else is sacrificed in their relentless path.
It has to implode sooner or later and the blurb tells you as much.
It is like waiting for a road accident on an icy day, you just know it's going to happen, the question is when and how. Not only that but how will Nikita Lalwani handle the obvious when it does happen making it interesting enough to read?
Well to my mind she handles it very well. I was suddenly racing towards the end of Gifted completely drawn into the family's pain as everything unravelled and willing this to happen or that to happen and then settling for Nikita Lalwani's ending with a degree of relief.
Ever since I read The Royal Game by Stefan Zweig (Pushkin Press) and The Miniature Man by r.muir (Snowbooks) any book that blends some of the plot around a game of chess gets my attention.I always think it's neat and I love shaping up the analogies, bishop taken out = spot the religious debate, pawn strikes = look out for the power of the ordinary man, queen under threat = take cover there's trouble brewing.
Ultimately a sad book and a reflection of so much that can go so wrong with very clever children all bound up in the complexities of cross-cultural differences and the need to excel as a means of proving worth.
Gifted academically doesn't equate with gifted emotionally.
At an emotional level these children develop at just the same rate as everyone else, often with far greater potential to be disturbed because they are thrust into peer groups beyond their chronological age.
It all needs very careful management and Nikita Lalwani has flagged it all up very astutely in this book.
So will it make my shortlist? Well guess what?
I couldn't possibly comment and I get really annoyed when people say that too.
Not long to go now.