REVIEW by Rachel Stenner

NWR Issue 100

The Village

by Nikita Lalwani

Having given away £10,000 in literary prize money to human rights organisation Liberty, Cardiff author Nikita Lalwani is clearly a woman with a conscience. The Village, her second novel, is a book of ethical enquiry that unpicks the liberal anxieties of its protagonist, Ray, a twenty-seven-year-old woman ‘of North Indian origin’, living in the UK and working as a film-maker for the BBC.

The titular ‘village’ is Ashwer, an open prison outside Delhi where Ray and her English crew are making a documentary. The prison was established by an avuncular, glamorous and slightly suspicious governor whose idealism, readers learn, would never wash with the authorities at home. ‘“To my mind,”’ he rhapsodises of the prisoners, ‘“it is a basic question of trust. You trust them and they will return the trust.”’ That the village has had no break-outs is made all the more startling by the fact that every convict has killed someone. But not every inmate – because a condition of living in the relative freedom of the village is that the prisoner brings their family too...

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