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Cardiff in the 1980s is a place where maths can get you noticed. Rumis Vasi is the town's 'maths prodigy': untangling numbers and Rubik's Cubes protects her from the harsh vagaries of the playground and gives a pattern to her world. But after years of her father's determined tutoring, Rumi finds that numbers are beginning to lose their innocence. India infuses her with a romantic sense of belonging and, as she grows older, and desire becomes a dirty word in the Vasi household, the idea of love is opened up to painful examination. In a voice that is by turns very funny and fiercely tender, Nikita Lalwani brings us a captivating story of high aspirations and deep longing, and of the sometime loneliness of childhood.
The long-awaited follow-up to the critically acclaimed, Booker longlisted Gifted, a provocative novel about an experimental open prison in India and the havoc a team of journalists wreaks on the delicate moral code of the inmates. After a long journey from England, Ray Bhullar arrives early on a winter morning at the gates of a remote Indian village called Ashwer which will be her home for the next three months. The door of the hut she will share with Serena, her English co-worker, is a loose sheet of metal, the windows simple holes in the walls. Beyond the lockless door, village life goes on as usual. And yet, the village is anything but normal. Despite the domestic chores being carried out, cooking, fetching water and sewing and laundering linens, Ashwer is a village of murderers, an experimental open prison. And when Ray and her crew take up residence, to observe and to make a documentary, it seems that they are innocent visitors into a violent world, on a mission to hold the place up to viewers as the ultimate example of tolerance. But the longer Ray and her colleagues stay and their need for drama intensifies, the line between innocence and guilt begins to blur and an unexpected and terrifying new kind of cruelty emerges. A mesmerizing and heartfelt tale of manipulation and personal morality, Nikita Lalwani's new novel brilliantly exposes how truly frail our moral judgment can be.
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