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.

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…