30 June, 2013

#BookReview :: The Village by Nikita Lalwani

Ray, a young British-Asian woman arrives in the afternoon heat of a small village in India. She has come to live there for several months to make a documentary about the place. For this is no ordinary Indian village - the women collecting water at the well, the men chopping wood in the early morning light have all been found guilty of murder. The village is an open prison. Ray is accompanied by two British colleagues and, as the days pass, they begin to get closer to the lives of the inhabitants of the village. And then it feels too close. As the British visitors become desperate for a story, the distinction between innocence and guilt, between good intentions and horrifying results becomes horribly blurred.
Set in a village modelled on a real-life open prison in India, The Village is a gripping story about manipulation and personal morality, about how truly frail our moral judgement can be. Nikita Lalwani has written a dazzling, heartfelt and disturbing novel which delivers on all the promise of her first.

Ray Bhullar, a British-Asian Woman, who works for BBC, lands up in a small village in India to shoot a documentary. Her colleagues, Serena and Nathan are accompanying her on this trip. As they settle down and get comfortable in the lifestyle of the village, they get a chance to know and learn more about their inhabitants more closely. What’s unique about this village, that prompted BBC to make the documentary in the first place, is the fact that this village is actually a prison. Yes, you heard me right. Every family in this village has a murderer, an offender who is allowed to live with their family. So, far there has been no ‘repeat performance’ and only one failed escape attempt. It’s a very different kind of community – as the readers and Ray and colleagues soon discover.

The book has an awesome and unique premise. The summary of the book had me completely and I simply knew that I just had to read it. 

There are quite a few characters that play an important role in shaping up this novel. But I guess the protagonist, Ray, stands out on her own right. While she wants to make a documentary that her target audience would truly appreciate, circumstances lead her to take a closer look at herself before delving into the lives of these offenders. How far would she go to make her documentary? Would she stand by and watch others being manipulated for the sake of ‘good ol’ drama’. Or will she stop them? Or would she actually join in? Her colleagues each have their own background and the dynamics within the three is interesting to see. I have to admit though, I wish that the author would flesh out a few of the Villagers bit more definitively. 

The plot had held great promise - from taking a look at a new penal system to a way to the ethics of today’s media to human moral in questionable circumstances. I admit, the idea of the open prison really appealed to me at some levels. And, in the modern generation who isn’t questioning the media’s ethics and actions. So, in many ways this book actually raises the questions in our minds and I liked that. The author has also invested a lot of time in thoroughly describing the setting and the people in it. While her descriptions do paint a vivid picture, it does get repetitive after a point. Also, I wished that the pace would pick up a bit.

But what will stay with me for quite some time is the feeling of loneliness that I felt through some of the characters. It was what touched my heart.

Buy the Book


  1. Definitely up my alley. Adding to the list. Thanks for the review!

  2. I'm adding this to my TBR. Seems like an intriguing premise.