Author : Vikram Kapur
Publisher : Speaking Tiger
Genre : Historical Fiction
Source : Publisher
Rating : 3/5 Stars
Summary : Prem Kohli, the handsome, ambitious son of a Sikh refugee, has the world at his feet: a glittering career and he’s engaged to his college girlfriend, Deepa, despite her father’s reservations about Hindus and Sikhs intermarrying. But, while Deepa remains occupied with their marriage plans, the Indian Army enters the Golden Temple. Prem cannot contain his rising anger at the desecration of the shrine, and at the people around him who shrug it off. He begins growing out his hair and visiting the gurudwara regularly, where he learns about the militancy in Punjab. Matters come to a head when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi is assassinated and anti-Sikh riots break out, as Prem is caught up in a vortex of violence and hate that engulfs all their lives. In The Assassinations, Vikram Kapur writes with sensitivity about a topic that still holds painful memories, skilfully telling the story of how ordinary lives are distorted by the forces of history. He also evokes the New Delhi of the 1980s, with its wide, leafy roads masking the precariousness of its Punjabi middle class. This memorable book captures the turbulence of those times, while chronicling how continuing to live means coming to terms with many kinds of deaths.
The Assassinations is a love story that is set in the 1984 in the midst of the strife between Hindus and Sikhs following the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her two Sikh bodyguards. Things spiral as they are won’t to do during such situations and soon there is an all out war between two religious groups only intensified by local goondas and politicians who use each thing to their advantage. Two lovers stuck in the middle of this tension, one Sikh and the other a Hindu try their best to remain together and wait out the storm till it’s safe for them to marry. But then something happens to the Sikh boy and things may never be the same.
WHAT I LIKED
I loved how the author made the book accessible to all readers. It isn’t literary fiction but it is historical fiction at a very readable level. You know how some books that place a relationship amidst very difficult surroundings are sort of dull and boring? This isn’t like that. It is fast paced, short and a very quick and easy read. A bit surprising to say about a book like this but it is an easy read without too much gruesomeness so if you’re looking to expand your horizons without getting a panic attack this is a good way to go.
The characters are described well enough though I have to admit things are told from the POV of the parents more than from the youngsters, particularly Deepa. She just seemed like she was too happy to actually pay attention to anything. It is difficult to not like the parents and at the same time curse them for not seeing this come sooner.
WHAT I DISLIKED
I felt like it skirted a lot of issues that it could have tackled. Like the author wasn’t being bold enough to take the book to uncomfortable places. I’d compare this to Radhika Swarup’s Where The River Parts because it spoke of things that were bad but it is nowhere close to the horrors that either side experienced and for that I’ll have to say it’s not a brave enough book.
And since it didn’t take you too deep into things it felt more like hearing a story from a friend than reading an all encompassing story that took you away to a horrible place. Deepa in particular felt terribly wishy washy and I wish the author had focused on her a lot more than he actually did.
Read this if you’re looking to expand your reading horizons. Don’t if you want something more realistic and uninhibited. I’d say it’s a good book to pick up when you’re in a slump.
Many thanks to the publisher for sending me a review copy. Opinions expressed are my own.