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City of Ghosts

by Bali Rai

A story about love, loss and the desire to belong at any cost. Three men face very different destinies. This book blends magic realism, the horror of war, the chequered history of colonialism and the scents and sounds of the city of Amritsar into an ambitious narrative. The reader needs to suspend their disbelief and revel in the rich descriptive passages which evoke India and the tragedy of an alienated nation through the ghosts of the past.

Extract

Battle plans on paper were rare. In fact Bissen had never even seen one. He took the map from Bhan and peered at it more closely. Their position for the start of the battle was clearly marked. They would begin to the right of the British First Army, under the direction of James Willocks, commander of the Indian Corps.
He looked at the position of the German trenches. They seemed so close, the first line sitting right in front of the village.
'Are we to take the village?' he asked Bhan Singh.
His friend nodded.
'And there will be a surprise for our enemies', he whispered.
'What surprise?, asked an excited Jiwan.
Bhan shook his head. 'I cannot say,' he replied as three large rats slid across Bissen's boots and into the water at the base of the trench.
Bissen kicked out and caught rodent flesh. A shriek pierced the air. 'Damn rats!' he said. 'It's a wonder they don't try to eat us as we sleep.
'Sleep?' asked Bhan Singh. 'I wish I could remember what that means .... How I long for the village of my birth. Instead here I am fighting a white man's war.'

Parallels

Sepoys in the Trenches:The Indian Corps on the Western Front 1914-1915 by Gordon Corrigan
The Butcher of Amritsar - Brigadier General Reginald Dyer by Nigel Collett
The House of Blue Mangoes by David Davidar
 

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