Jamie Reviews: Bali Rai—"Killing Honour"

Cultural difference can be a rather heavy subject, one that Killing Honour by Bali Rai tackles with surprising diplomacy.

The urban England location sets an emotive scene for racial and family tensions and a rather adult plot that takes some understanding. The novel is based around Sat, a young man from a lapsed Sikh household, and his search for his sister who went missing in questionable circumstances.

The foundations for this kind of tale have long been set (some may say overused) so it surprised me that I could find the story told in such a way as to leave me turning the page in anticipation. There is much within the covers that is controversial; there is quite a bit of drug use, sexual references and acts and several references  to long-held cultural beliefs that would be seen as questionable in today’s world. That being said the content is controlled beautifully; this isn’t a book of  ‘shock horror’. The graphic imagery manages to emphasise the story where another author may have let it overwhelm it.

There is no way that a story like this can completely escape bias from its author; the novel jumps from character to character in intervals within the story, including from the viewpoint of several women in the midst of abuse, but the writing is such that it doesn’t feel like any particular view is being pushed. As such, it takes the reader on a visceral ride into places that they would not have expected to go.

“Nice” is not a word I would use to describe this book, and I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone. This book is about as far as you can push an M15+ rating in literary form. Approach it with caution but don’t shy away from it; the tale within is more than worth the occasional queasy feeling you might experience while reading it.

Bali Rai — Killing Honour

288 Pages

Published January 8, 2011, by Random House

ISBN: 9781409026747

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