This another hardest reviews that I have ever written and just because my feeling and thoughts are all over the place. I have a hard time between giving this three or two stars.
The Year of the Runaways is a bleak book, it tells account of the lives of young Indian men trying to make a life for themselves in Britain, working illegally in the guise of students, contracting fake marriages to qualify for a visa, being exploited by employers without a conscience, and living in conditions that would break anyone's spirit. There’s no doubt that it’s a realistic picture of the lives of illegal Indian immigrants to Britain, and we do sympathy with the young men who are its subject.
I can only appreciate the way that two of the four central characters are developed. The parallel drawn between Tochi's mistreatment as a chamaar in Bihar and an immigrant in London was painful but essential to see developed. As Tochi journey to see something valuable in himself, torn between two worlds that think him worthless, a very clear spoken call to action is cried out. The fact that any nation inevitably produces Tochis of its own is appalling. As is the fact for that matter, that the world produces versions of Narinder. As a woman, she's been told time and again that her life is not her own. As she progresses to claim something for herself, I again found something so real in her struggle. Both she and Tochi are unfairly tangled up in their struggles because they were born in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the injustice of their circumstances is impossible to miss.
There are many characters in the book to keep track of initially and sometimes with going back and forth between present and the past, I had a hard time distinguishing them apart. There are also so many, and I mean many, times Punjabi words or phrases are in the book and usually I did not know what it meant. I hard a hard time getting into this at first but then the story picks up.
In the end, the narrative reel out of series of events that earnestly demonstrate different angels of the illegal immigrant problem. Sahota is not a bad writer, and his story is a strong one in terms of human interest. The year of the runaways is a good read.
My only opinion is that novel shouldn't be more than a group of moving stories, relevant to the problems of our time. I want more than that.
Would I recommend this novel to anyone? It depends if they want to read a realist of being in the shoes of illegal immigrant then yes, you should read it. But if you don't want to read the lives of illegal immigrant then you shouldn't read it.
This review can also be found on DW