Book Review: ‘Western Lane’ by Chetna Maroo (Shortlisted for The Booker Prize 2023)

A Soulful Journey of Grief, Identity, and Belonging

Book Title: Western Lane
Author: Chetna Maroo
Publisher: Picador India
Number of Pages: 160
ISBN: 978-8119300150
Date Published: Oct. 27, 2023
Price: INR 339

Western Lane by Chetna Maroo Book Cover

Book Review

Western Lane” is an impressive debut novel penned by Chetna Maroo, a distinguished Canadian author of Gujarati descent whose literary prowess earned her a coveted spot on the Booker Prize longlist in 2023. Within the pages of this novel, Maroo weaves a poignant narrative, introducing readers to Gopi, an 11-year-old girl who resides in London alongside her father and two sisters, grappling with the profound loss of her mother. Gopi discovers solace in squash, a sport she passionately pursues at the Western Lane sports center, where she trains with her father and crosses paths with Ged, a fellow enthusiast who shares her love for the game despite his speech impediment.

At its core, “Western Lane” is a soul-stirring and lyrical exploration of grief, identity, and the quest for belonging. Gopi’s journey unfolds as she confronts the multifaceted challenges of racism, poverty, and isolation while also contending with the looming threat of separation from her family, driven by the desire of her aunt and uncle to adopt her. Intertwined with her struggles, Gopi embarks on a profound voyage of self-discovery, uncovering the rich history of her ancestors, who escaped the clutches of slavery in Jamaica and settled on a remote island off the coast of Maine.

Chetna Maroo demonstrates remarkable artistry in her writing, employing various narrative techniques such as second-person narration, flashbacks, and stream of consciousness. These literary tools construct a vivid and authentic portrayal of the immigrant experience in 1980s Britain while crafting intricate, multi-dimensional character relationships. The novel also delves into the intricacies of squash, utilizing the sport as a metaphor for life’s trials and the pursuit of survival.

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Western Lane” is a standout debut that brilliantly showcases Maroo’s writing talent and her profound understanding of the human experience. The story resonates deeply, tugging at the heartstrings and provoking thoughtful introspection. In its pages, readers will discover a tale that touches the soul and stimulates contemplation.

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