The Year of the Runaways

The Year of the Runaways
by Sanjeev Sahota

This Booker-short listed novel traces the lives of three Indian immigrants over a year.

The three young men, Tarlochan Kumar (Tochi), Avtar Nijjar and Randeep Sanghera, move into a house in Sheffield which is shared by numerous migrant workers. The fourth character in this story, Narinder Kaur, is a young British-raised devout Sikh girl, the visa-wife of Randeep, who moves separately into a flat in Sheffield. The author tells the story of each character’s past in India, the events that bring them to this country as immigrants and the struggle they then face in the daily fight for work, money and survival in England, as their lives become entwined.

The majority of the group agreed that the book is superbly written, simply expressed and a real page turner. It is thought provoking with clearly drawn characters and incidences. We are given good insights to Indian culture and the Sikh religion. Although the story-lines were tragic and moving at time, harsh details were not unduly dwelled upon. Unusually, the view was expressed that this is a book people need to read as it opens our eyes to a greater understanding of why people want to come to our country as immigrants.

One member of our group listened to this novel on Audio and expressed her delight at the way in which the background sounds really enriched the story and helped bring the culture alive.

However not all opinions were positive and a view that the book was depressing with continual hardships was also expressed. Additionally, it was agreed that a Glossary would be useful as the author has included many foreign words and phrases which were a bit daunting a times.

After a lively discussion the overall score was a positive 8 out of 10 and therefore a highly recommend.

The evening was pleasantly rounded off as we enjoyed tea, coffee and delicious snacks and cakes courtesy of Val.