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The Thing about Thugs



Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) (20120724)
Price: Rs. 1404
Rs. 1095
Discount: Rs. 309
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THE THING ABOUT THUGS plays out in the grand style of storytelling we don't see much anymore. It's told via different mediums (literature-infused reflections, straight-up narrative, personal letters, news articles, etc.), but the story itself is pretty straightforward: Amir Ali, a Native Indian, finds himself in 1837 London. He got there by crafting a story of himself as a murderous thug. Ali's story is too juicy and enticing to be true, and it gets him in serious trouble when a series of vicious beheadings rocks the city.

THUGS is a dark-humored satire that contains everything that makes 19th century British literature so enticing: sex, murder, grave-robbing, phrenology, love, humor, and bits of racism (in this case, intentional). Tabish Khair has crafted an engaging piece of prose that, despite some of its trappings, moves along at a solid pace; and though it may not be laugh-out-loud funny, the book is indeed humorous (and grotesque in spots), with a cast of characters who aren't quite believable, even if their surroundings come roaring to life. THE THING ABOUT THUGS isn't a perfect novel (the alternating prose styles take some getting used to, and the plot doesn't really kick in until about 100 pages), but it has more than enough to recommend it for literature lovers. More mainstream readers should probably look elsewhere, though if you have some guts and a heaping amount of curiosity, THUGS is still definitely worth your time.

Book Description

A subversive, macabre novel of a young Indian man’s misadventures in Victorian London as the city is racked by a series of murders

In a small Bihari village, Captain William T. Meadows finds just the man to further his phrenological research back home: Amir Ali, confessed member of the infamous Thugee cult. With tales of a murderous youth redeemed, Ali gains passage to England, his villainously shaped skull there to be studied. Only Ali knows just how embroidered his story is, so when a killer begins depriving London’s underclass of their heads, suspicion naturally falls on the “thug.” With help from fellow immigrants led by a shrewd Punjabi woman, Ali journeys deep into a hostile city in an attempt to save himself and end the gruesome murders.

Ranging from skull-lined mansions to underground tunnels a ghostly people call home, The Thing about Thugs is a feat of imagination to rival Wilkie Collins or Michael Chabon. Short-listed for the 2010 Man Asian Literary Prize, this sly Victorian role reversal marks the arrival of a compelling new Indian novelist to North America

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