Nikita Lalwani’s 2007 debut Gifted, the story of a maths prodigy raised by her Hindu parents in Cardiff and groomed for Oxford, won the Desmond Elliott prize. Lalwani donated her prize money to the human rights charity Liberty and her third novel cements the impression that this is a writer who is very interested in compassion, how it manifests, and the nature of its limits. You People is the story of a London pizzeria that is largely staffed by undocumented migrants and presided over by the charming and enigmatic proprietor Tuli, who has sidelines in many shady endeavours. The story alternates between Nia, a 19-year-old Welsh waitress who has fled her alcoholic mother, and Shan, a Tamil refugee who has paid traffickers to get him out of Sri Lanka, leaving his young family behind. He has faced “weeks of waiting in small abandoned rooms in different cities, speech clotted thick with suspicion and fear, hard shell closing in on you like a crab if anyone looks you in the eye” – Lalwani is fond of animal similes, which often add to the vividness of the prose. Nia, in her turn, “disappeared like a slug through the side exit of the… Read full this story
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