Tikkipala

9781448215058When Sangita, Ranee of Bidwar, is caught up in a scandal, her husband, the Raja, banishes her from the palace and forbids access to her son, Anwar, still a babe in arms. She lives miserably as a disgraced woman, praying to the god Ganesh that he will take Anwar from her husband, so that he would know her suffering. Then, Anwar goes missing.

In a hill-tribe far above the palace, on land impenetrable to man, the young males were dying. When they come across a Coarseone – a child from civilisation below – in the lower jungle, they use him to create a new life – a male who will become their Maw, their king.

The Ama stone – the stone of life – was kept by the hill-tribe at the foot of the mountain in a hammocked shrine. When Sangita, scouring the jungle for her son, finds it, it burns her skin causing her to drop it, losing it without trace, but not before it sends her a message: Anwar has returned to her womb.

Two generations later, Sangita’s granddaughter, Devi, heads to the family’s derelict hill palace to research the mountain’s minerals, with instructions to look out for the apocryphal Ama stone. Simultaneously, a tree-felling company finally reach the mountain top where they discover the tree-dwelling tribe. Maw, now a young man, is injured trying to stop the lumberjacks driving them off the land. He is brought to Devi, who takes him down to the palace where the family care for and educate him, but he always has a look in his eyes that no one understands. Will his tribe think their king has deserted them, or do they know that he is playing a longer game… a life long game to avenge his tribe their suffering?

Tikkipala is a hypnotic tale of love and preservation at a time of fading empires. Meticulously and soulfully written, Banerji takes the heart on a journey through mystical cultures and spiritual practices, to a world where anything is possible if love is strong enough. – See more at: Bloomsbury

The Spirit Trap

spirit trapAngharad, a fourteen year old artist has locked herself in the east wing of her family’s ancestral castle and refuses food and drink. She is painting over the whole floor of her castle apartment, making a spirit trap, trying, as the Africans had taught her to capture the spirit of her dead brother, Owain. When their father, Tudur, returned to Wales at the end of the second world war he had insisted, in spite of his wife, Bronwen’s, dismay, to take his family to grow tobacco in Southern Rhodesia. Angharad does not want to do either. She fights to be allowed to remain with her pony, Mary. But there is no way out. Tudur, charming and feckless, goes ahead to prepare for the family, promising a house, cows, a garden, and a horse for Angharad. But when they arrived there is only a primitive straw hut without running water or electricity, miles from anywhere, in the middle of the African bush. Eventually Angharad is given the mare, Kitty and she and Owain joyously ride together over the vleis, encountering baboons, giraffes, and even lions but their mother, Bronwen is miserable. Then Katya, sophisticated and beautiful comes into their lives and Bronwen’s despair is briefly lifted. Katya charms each member of the family, unfortunately, as it later turns out, most of all Tudur. Bronwen, unable to bear more, craving for civilisation, goes back leaving the children with their charming feckless father.

One evening Angharad and Owain go out on Kitty. As they ride over the vlei the lion starts roaring, and Owain becomes ill. Out in the bush, alone with his sister, while a lion roars, Owan slowly dies. The story ends with Angharad back in Wales, bitterly blaming both her parents for Owain’s death. Her father has betrayed her, she has been forced to set Kitty free into the bush, she has been forced against her will to return to Wales.

At the very end, though, a little hope lies in Angharad’s spirit trap.

Blood Precious

Pub: Transita

“Bookbag loved this book. With utterly preposterous plotting and dripping with irony, Banerji lays bare the truth of the often uncomfortable relationships we have with our friends, families and, most importantly, ourselves.” The Bookbag

“By the time I reached the water, I could just make out Naomi waving. I woke up in hospital. Apparently life savers had pulled me out and saved my life. I was furious. And that was the start of them poking around. This was a situation that Jack and I had not thought of, that the time would come when other people would poke their noses in, and prevent the surviving one from doing away with his or herself.”

Snobbish, aloof and eighty years old, Lady Arabella Cunningham-Smythe wishes she were dead. Then at least she could join her late husband as they had planned so meticulously before he died.
Lady ArabellaBut a band of well meaning friends and relations are determined to thwart her wishes. It is only when her beloved four year old granddaughter Naomi – who has magical powers – is kidnapped that things change. Lady Arabella must regain the will to live if she is to turn detective, successfully outwit a mass murderer – and learn to master her mobile phone.

Shining Hero

Pub: Harper Collins

‘…it tells a story that seems timeless, like a myth or a dream. Sara Banerji is a very gifted storyteller, a natural writer of great warmth and directness.’ The Times

‘An unsentimental yet extremely moving tale of sibling rivalry…. This is a stunning novel, rich in human experience and fascinating mythology, but beautifully written too, with flashes of irony and humour to lightenthe deeper pathos.’ Tablet

‘Shining Hero enthrals with its punchy, exciting narrative. It is a gripping read, the kind of book that is impossible to put down. Banerji has a wonderful prose style – her writing is fluid and confident and extremely imaginative. She knows how to meld shimmering prose with rollicking, high-powered adventure, making Shining Hero vivid, dramatic and entertaining.’ Sunday Business Post

‘Rich, exciting and moving, with no striving to be exotic – it’s not like any other book set in India I’ve ever read.’ Barbara Trapido

In a village just outside modern-day Calcutta, a young girl sends her baby floating down a sacred river towards an unknown destiny. Over the years, the river, the golden chain found around his neck, and the hand of fate will link the life of the Baby Karna to that of a host of other characters; his teenage mother, Koonty; his half-brother and rival, Arjuna; his destitute foster mother, Dolly; as well as ruthless street thugs, politicians, pariahs and film stars.

In this enchanting novel, which dips luxuriously into the richeness of Indian myth and Hindu legend, Sara Banerji thrills us with the twists and turns of Karna’s life. full of tragedy, surprises and strange coincidences, it takes us on an exhilerating ride from the Calcutta underworld, to Bollywood, up into the Himalayas and culminates – as the brothers’ fight for fame and fortune reaches the point of no return – in a race to the death which only one can win.

Shining Hero won an Arts Council of England Award.

Update – March 2013: HarperCollins brought Shining Hero out again on ebook and POD.

Cobwebwalking

Pub: Victor Gollancz

…Banerji’s wonderful visual intelligence… magical imagery, persuasive mysticism and the sensuousness of her tale are often enchanting.’ New York Times

“Highly original first novel… Banerji’s prose sometimes verges on the whimsical side of fantasy and sometimes startles us with its insights into love and rejection… This is a book which exercises a compelling fascination and reveals an original and highly imaginative mind at work.” Evening Standard

As a child – so tiny and delicate that her father calls her fairy – Morgan has a special relationship with nature, for she can hear the Silence, the harmonising force that creates and sustains all things. The humming of the Silence is her secret, even from her beloved father, as is the day that she walks along a cobweb.

But with adolescence comes a loss of childhood innocence and the intrusion into her perfect world of an unwanted step-mother and baby sister. These loud and chaotic presences, together with an act, as she percieves it, of unwarranted violence by her father, have a traumatic effect on Morgan.

Sent by her father to get hlep – for the family has been trapped in a fall-out shelter for days – Morgan, a dwarf, goes instead on an odyssey into the unknown, seemingly hostile, world outside her home.

Mourning the disappearance of magic from her life and realising for the first time that she is physically deformed, Morgan learns that only through love can she regain her empathy with the Silence and the ability to transcend the boundaries that enclose other people.

In this, her first novel, Sara Banerji has created a work of startling originality and beauty. Full of vivid images, Cobwebwalking is a perceptive story about shattered childhood dreams and the painful awakening to self-awareness.

 

The Waiting Time

Pub: Transita

 “A delicious book – highly recommended!! I have just finished reading this book in one sitting and feel as though I have been on a rollercoaster. The book leaves you feeling happy and sad. Banerji’s ability to empathise with the young children and the older women in the book is to be applauded.” Bookcrosser

Julia has given up on love in her middle age but is searching for a vanished brother and a lost identity. In doing so, she collides with Kitty, a woman of a different age, life-style and aspirations. The proof of Julia’s identity lies somewhere under Kitty’s home. The literal digging up of the past changes life for both of them, though what they eventually find is very different to their expectations. Ahead are surprises, conflict, terror, disappointment, love – and unexpected happiness.

Sometimes it is necessary for people to find the strength and courage to dig deep into themselves and their past. Those who do so will not always find what they expected and may even encounter disappointment and sadness. For the brave and the clear sighted, though, such fearless scrutiny can bring fulfilment, love and even happiness.

Transita – 2005

Absolute Hush

A bold, fantastical work of the imagination whose ending is an extraordinary marriage of pyrotechnics and grace.’ Observer

It is the Second World War and the human race stands at the crossroads: self-destruction or a glorious evolutionary step to higher consciousness.

In the grand and moated Plague House, served since the start of the war only by the spiteful charlady, Mrs Lovage, live beautiful Elizabeth and her thirteen-year-old twins – plump pyromaniac George and Sissy, struggling with her mother for her brother’s love. Into this strange household comes Lump – otherwise known as Hush – intent on saving the world. But initial confidence wavers as stress, conflict, fire and death are encountered in an inspired and memorable finale.

Shining Agnes

Pub: Victor Gollancz

In a once great , now falling, mansion live an aristocratic family: Alice, huge, sad and longing for love; her paralysed mother who is subject to wild and eccentric enthusiasms; and the foster child Agnes, whose desire to be an actress sets in motion a train of bizarre and horrifying events.

Then love comes to Alice in the form of beautiful but furtive Vincent who has moved in next door. But does he want Alice for herself or for the treasures that she digs from the rubble of her tumbled home? And how dies he view Alice’s obsession with compost, the making of which she compares to the grown of spirituality and the purging away of sin? Black comedy lurks beneath the surface of this gloriously imaginative new novel…

Writing on Skin

Pub: Transworld
Sara Banerji is one of the most entertaining and original novelists now writing and readers who have not yet entered the remarkable worlds of her stories should do so at once.’ Sunday Times
When Hermione – eccentric, seventy and returned from India to a ‘safe’ life in the Home Counties – encounters Slug street-painting on the pavement, she employs him as assistant gardener. Slug, who has the motto ‘Never Grow Old’ tattooed across his head, will soon sort out Gerald, the pin-striped head gardener, soften his ruthless marshalling of her plants and introduce a more effusive atmosphere to her estate.
But when Hugh, Hermione’s huge husband, dies, Slug’s skinhead cronies begin to threaten her peace, and Hermione retreats to the chaos of India, chasing the memories of her previous life. What happened to the young Indian with whom she fell passionately in love when she was nineteen, and who had insisted that she marry the more ‘suitable’ Hugh? Can she recreate the dream of over fifty years ago?
Writing on Skin is blackly comic in its humour and sweeping in its imaginative scope.

The Tea Planter’s Daughter

Pub: Victor Gollancz

  •  “A book that you pick up on the strength of its Amazon preview is a fairly common thing; a truly good book – one with charm that lasts beyond the first few pages – is less so. I got to The Tea Planter’s Daughter by reading a guest post by author Sara Banerji on the BloomsburyReader blog – like so many things in publishing, you get to interesting stuff through contact and interaction. So it was that I came to own the ebook version…” Read more of this review below

A novel of repression and desire bathed in the warm sun of magical realism… Banerji has proved that her imaginative landscape is as fertile as ever.’ Literary Review

Today is Julia Clockhouse’s twenty-fifth birthday. Her long-suffering Hindu servants are frantically trying to organise a party for her, but it’s hard to do so amid the havoc wreaked by her wild spirit. They think she is possessed. Daughters of colonial tea-planters shouldn’t have souls that escape their bodies, move objects with their minds, hear tongueless yogis speak. Julia Clockhouse does.

As the day passes and the chaos mounts in the kitchen, Julia listens desperately for the return of her husband. Ben may have married her on the orders of her domineering father, but he had come to love her; together they had found the happiness they missed in childhood. But by the time the party guests are tumbling in from the rising fury of the monsoon Ben has still not come.

Sara Banerji narrates the events of an extraordinary birthday party with deft humour and haunting eloquence, weaving into Julia’s story a picture of an isolated tea-plantation and all those who live there. The Tea-Planter’s Daughter is a captivating flight of the imagination firmly rooted in the reality of the South Indian hills.

Latest review

– review by Kristina Wilde @ Fictavia

A book that you pick up on the strength of its Amazon preview is a fairly common thing; a truly good book – one with charm that lasts beyond the first few pages – is less so. I got to The Tea Planter’s Daughter by reading a guest post by author Sara Banerji on the Bloomsbury Reader blog – like so many things in publishing, you get to interesting stuff through contact and interaction. So it was that I came to own the ebook version.

“Interesting stuff” is not an adequate phrase to cover the book’s content. It’s much more than that. Central character Julia Clockhouse is a little bit like what Mary of The Secret Garden may have grown up to be, should cholera have passed the Lennox family by. Julia’s father Edward Buxton is the titular tea-planter, rich and pompous and, we learn, with an apparently inexplicable hatred of his daughter. Or at least, that’s how she sees it.

The Julia of the first few pages appears to be an intolerable brat: unable to get what she wants, she deliberately spills tea on a white pillowcase in an attempt to rile sensible family servant Kali. It seems straightforward enough: she’s a spoiled young woman angry that her husband Ben hasn’t returned for her birthday. The rest of the day will be spent in a furious sulk; the servants fear her temper. But nothing is that simple in Banerji’s book. Julia Clockhouse is a girl whose soul comes out at night.

The book does not unfold so much as uncrumple, like a bunched newspaper being ironed out. Julia’s background, her current life and, importantly, her confusing powers inch out by degrees. She becomes at once a figure of great tragedy and real unease. The story itself is extraordinary. A pet goose, an inattentive artist mother and a zealously Christian ayah are a few of the trying puzzle pieces Julia has had to slot together. Indian culture ensconces and simmers under the whole thing; the setting is the “Elephant Valley,” Arnivarlai, shaped like a great spoon (“at the lips of the gods”), and the setting, food and traditions are wonderful additions to the main tale.

Kali, by the way, may be the best character in the whole book. At his introduction I was worried Banerji was going to fall into the trap of writing the calm spiritual stereotype, but the fears were soon laid to rest. He is calm and certainly very religious, but believably so. He’s also knowing, warm, and probably has a twinkle in his eye. He is the tamer to Julia’s tantrums – and he knows exactly what to do with her. I suppose most of his charm comes from being able to bounce off his charge and Babuchi the cook in the way that he does. Then again, these entertaining exchanges are testament to how well Banerji creates and interlocks her characters.

I think some readers would be forgiven for finding the last quarter of the book hard going. There is suddenly a lot going on – all spiritual, very much rooted in Hindu culture, with some intense magic realism. What you have to do is trust Banerji to guide you to the end. She does this with a steady hand – any time you feel like the book might drop off a cliff like Julia’s pet goose, be assured that Banerji knows exactly what she is doing. By the end, I felt like my emotions and responses manipulated in a skilled way – the mark, I think, of a very good storyteller indeed.

I’d recommend the book to fans of magic realism, of course, but any fiction reader is likely to find many things to enjoy: its tone is something unique and the story, very captivating. For me, it was a perspective-changer, in terms of what I thought magic realism could do. All in all, it’s a beautifully-written story, filled with poetic phrases and highly creative uses of language. You can get the ebook from Amazon UK, priced at £6.99.