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WESTERN LANE by Chetna Maroo
There was a time I would read the entire Booker longlist. In recent years, I feel the prize has lost its lustre, so now I only make a point of reading the novellas and the odd other book that piques my interest. This year, I was about halfway through Chetna Maroo’s lovely debut when it was shortlisted. It made for a weird reading moment; the lens through which I saw it noticeably shifted. I was enjoying it enough. But was it Booker worthy?
Western Lane is the story of Gopi, an 11-year-old girl whose mother has recently died and who finds solace and purpose through squash. Watched over by her strict father, she is thrown into an intense training regimen while also attempting to navigate her new normal with family and community. Then there’s Ged, another local squash prodigy for whom she might be falling. It is a tender and breezy book, gentle in its telling if a little clunky in its conceptual squash scaffolding. There’s no doubting Maroo’s considerable talent in effortlessly conveying the emotional intricacies of a young life in flux. But, ultimately, it’s hard to think Western Lane particularly memorable in the context of its Booker shortlisting.
Western Lane by Chetna Maroo