“Zuni’s novel, the work of a fifteen year old, sweeps together politics and legend in a more accomplished fashion than one would expect.”

NO MAJOR SPOILERS

Kashmir – beauty violently torn apart by stones and gunfire – the subject everyone debates about. Is it India, is it terrorist run – and all of it seems to have no satisfactory conclusion. Zuni Chopra’s debut novel takes on the subject with teenage boldness. Telling the tale of a house with the potential to hold back the darkness that shrouds Kashmir.

Her story begins simply like a teenage horror story – something in the hidden basement scorches a British soldier and dissolves him. With the death of the oddly named Kout – the tale leapfrogs centuries to the life of Zoon Razdan who lives in one of the rare Pandit houses in Srinagar.

Hers is an old family but her father is dead and her mother plans to sell the house without letting her or her grandmother know – their world is one of curfews, army trucks and sudden explosions and moving seems wise. However there is something that her mother doesn’t know about the house – it talks through its furniture, books and fireplaces and Zoon is the only one who can hear it because she has a very special legacy handed down through her ancestors.

At one level this is a story that children familiar with Twilight type stories will relate to. Confronted by a slimy politician who turns out to be possessed, Zoon has to learn how to overcome the dark force known as Kruhen Chay who is not merely a monster but the metaphysical darkness that has overtaken Kashmir and is killing its people and destroying homes. As in all fairy tales Zoon’s power is linked to her coming of age.

Zuni’s novel, the work of a fifteen year old, sweeps together politics and legend in a more accomplished fashion than one would expect.

The Pandits she hints have the power to revive their homeland, though this is not overtly stated. What she does say is that if one comes to term with the darkness at the heart of things and uses home and hearth as weapons, it is possible to overcome even overwhelming evil and that no matter how bad a situation seems, it can be remedied. Even that of Kashmir.

 

Reviewed by:

Anjana Basu

Added 25th March 2017

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