Jessica and Sarab, members of my reading group were both thrilled to bits to have found a novel by a Sikh writer sitting on the counter in Times. "See," said Jessica "he's even a Dhaliwal, like me."
I wonder how these two got on with Tourism by Nirpal Singh Dhaliwal, a book I first wrote about back in June?
I actually enjoyed it very much indeed!
The protagonist, "Puppy" is the kind of guy your mum probably warned you against, if you're a girl. He drifts without ambition or direction, wringing out every possible drop of hedonism he can from life. He's a total user and freeloader: he sponges off his rather thick model girlfriend - sharing her apartment because he can't think where else he might live if he left. He takes handouts from his mum who struggled to bring him up single-handedly - even though he feels too ashamed of her to spend any time in her company. And he's pretty much without conscience when he betrays a friend. (Although we do see a softer side to his nature when he visits a friend's dying mum in hospital ... and he apparently loves dogs, which I guess is a major saving grace.) He's as detached as a tourist, watching from a distance until he falls for Sarupa, rich, beautiful and intelligent ... and seemingly unobtainable. (I reckon they really do deserve each other after Sarupa's treatment of Shamir.)
Whilst I can't say I actually liked Puppy, I had a certain amount of sympathy for him, and found his observations of multicultural Britain refreshing in this age of political correctness. Puppy is an equal opportunity bastard and has strong opinions about just about every London community, including his own, and not all of them complimentary. A lot of it rings true, though, I have to say. (Could ever race be written about so frankly in Malaysia without stoking a hornet's nest?)
The writing has a terrific energy, and I really admire the way the author can draw convincing characters with such economy, even in the smallest walk-on parts. I look forward to the next novel from this young writer.
Be warned, though, there's an awful lot of bonking in this novel: the sex scenes are written in full technicolour detail ... and the camera doesn't pull away.