The In-Between World of Vikram Lall
Vikram Lall comes of age in 1950s Kenya, at the same time that the colony is struggling towards independence. Against the unsettling backdrop of Mau Mau violence, Vic and his sister Deepa, the grandchildren of an Indian railroad worker, search for their place in a world sharply divided between Kenyans and the British. We follow Vic from a changing Africa in the fifties, to the hope of the sixties, and through the corruption and fear of the seventies and eighties. Hauntingly told in the voice of the now exiled Vic, The In-Between World of Vikram Lall is an acute and bittersweet novel of identity and family, of lost love and abiding friendship, and of the insidious legacy of the British Empire.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
What people are saying - Write a review
The In-Between World of Vikram LallUser Review - Not Available - Book Verdict
As Vassanji's (The Book of Secrets ) novel begins, Vic, Deepa, and Njoroge, playmates in 1950s Kenya, are made aware of their country's turmoil and their own differences when a British family is ... Read full review
Q. How did you choose this book to read?
A. I live in a housing community that sponsors a library open to residents. People often leave books outside this library. The library does not have enough space for these hardbound books, so they are basically free. I needed a book to read on a trip away from home, and the opening sentence in this one hooked me.
Q. Do you recall what that opening sentence was?
A. Not word for word. It was something like, "My name is Vikram Lall. I am known as one of the most corrupt people in all of Africa."
Q. So did you enjoy the book?
A. Yes, immensely. I didn't want it to end. It was one of the best books I've read in many years, and in that period I've read dozens of books by many authors, fiction and non-fiction.
Q. So how did this book stand out, in your opinion?
A. It's fiction. Vikram Lall is writing in the first person and he stands in very well for his alter ego, the author himself, Vassanji. Many good novels, those novels written in the first person, seem very genuine, if they are at least a little bit autobiographical. Vikram Lall's story seems genuinely autobiographical or at least semi-autobiographical. Vikram and M. J. go hand in hand, to a certain extent. But in the acknowledgements at the end of the book, Vassanji tells us that he used many sources to increase the realism of his story. He was born in Kenya but grew up in Tanganyika, not Kenya. Everything seems real, but the author threw in some twists to make the whole story a bit more interesting.
Q. So what is Vikram Lall telling us, in the first person?
A. He begins at the end, an elderly retired person living near Toronto, in Canada, but quickly jumps back to his childhood. He grew up as a third generation Kenyan whose grandfather came from Punjab, India, to help build railroad tracks at the beginning of the 20th century. Vikram was born a little before World War II, and he relates his life from that time on. He grows up, goes to school, gets a government job, and moves up the bureaucratic ladder. His sister, Deepa, is his closest friend, and her story is actually even more interesting than his own. They both make a childhood friend of Njorge (this spelling is wrong but it's approximately this), a Kikuyan fellow living next door to the Lall's with his grandfather. Deepa eventually falls in love with Njorge but, as you can imagine, their interracial relationship is not acceptable to most others, including especially Vikram and Deepa's mother.
Q. So is this basically a coming-out story or a love story?
A. It's both of those, and also a book of suspense. Vassanji paces the book just right, with some background information here, some intrigue here, very little but just enough sexual content, filial duties and responsibilities, sibling relationships, politics in Kenya at the time of the Mau Mau uprising, the nature of Nairobi during those years, and on down the line. I learned a lot and want to read more of his works.
Q. Do you think the general reader would be interested in this book.
A. I think so. It has something for everybody. You need not be interested in Kenya, or even Africa, to find interest in this book. It's a human interest story, and one of the best, I think.
Other editions - View all
Journal of African Literature and Culture JALC-ALJ
Limited preview - 2006