In his brilliantly illuminating new book Sathnam Sanghera demonstrates how so much of what we consider to be modern Britain is actually rooted in our imperial past. In prose that is, at once, both clear-eyed and full of acerbic wit, Sanghera shows how our past is everywhere: from how we live to how we think, from the foundation of the NHS to the nature of our racism, from our distrust of intellectuals in public life to the exceptionalism that imbued the campaign for Brexit and the government's early response to the Covid crisis. And yet empire is a subject, weirdly hidden from view. The British Empire ran for centuries and covered vast swathes of the world. It is, as Sanghera reveals, fundamental to understanding Britain. However, even among those who celebrate the empire there seems to be a desire not to look at it too closely - not to include the subject in our school history books, not to emphasize it too much in our favourite museums. At a time of great division, when we are arguing about what it means to be British, Sanghera's book urges us to address this bewildering contradiction. For, it is only by stepping back and seeing where we really come from, that we can begin to understand who we are, and what unites us.
EMPIRE explains why there are millions of Britons living worldwide. EMPIRE explains Brexit and the feeling that we are exceptional. EMPIRE explains our distrust of cleverness. EMPIRE explains Britain's particular brand of racism. Strangely hidden from view, the British Empire remains a subject of both shame and glorification. In his bestselling book, Sathnam Sanghera shows how our imperial past is everywhere: from how we live and think to the foundation of the NHS and even our response to the COVID-19 crisis. At a time of great division, when we are arguing about what it means to be British, Empireland is a groundbreaking revelation - a much-needed and enlightening portrait of contemporary British society, shining a light on everything that usually gets left unsaid.
SHORTLISTED FOR THE COSTA FIRST NOVEL AWARD AND LONGLISTED FOR THE DESMOND ELLIOTT PRIZE To Arjan Banga, who has returned to the Black Country after the unexpected death of his father, his family's corner shop represents everything he has tried to leave behind - a lethargic pace of life, insular rituals and ways of thinking. But when his mother insists on keeping it open, he is dragged back, forced into big decisions about his imminent marriage back in London and thrown into the family betrayals and loyalties, loves and regrets that have played out in the shop over more than fifty years. Taking inspiration from Arnold Bennett's classic novel The Old Wives' Tale, Marriage Material tells the story of a family's three generations through the prism of a Wolverhampton corner shop: a symbol of South Asian independence and integration, but also of darker realities. Told with humour, tenderness and insight, this is a unique and urgent survey of modern Britain by one of the country's most promising young writers, and an ingenious reimagining of a classic work of fiction.
A 2014 World Book Night selection. The Boy with the Topknot: A Memoir of Love, Secrets and Lies in Wolverhampton is a hilarious and heart-rending reinvention of the modern British memoir. It's 1979, I'm three years old, and like all breakfast times during my youth it begins with Mum combing my hair, a ritual for which I have to sit down on the second-hand, floral-patterned settee, and lean forward, like I'm presenting myself for execution. For Sathnam Sanghera, growing up in Wolverhampton in the eighties was a confusing business. On the one hand, these were the heady days of George Michael mix-tapes, Dallas on TV and, if he was lucky, the occasional Bounty Bar. On the other, there was his wardrobe of tartan smocks, his 30p-an-hour job at the local sewing factory and the ongoing challenge of how to tie the perfect top-knot. And then there was his family, whose strange and often difficult behaviour he took for granted until, at the age of twenty-four, Sathnam made a discovery that changed everything he ever thought he knew about them. Equipped with breathtaking courage and a glorious sense of humour, he embarks on a journey into their extraordinary past - from his father's harsh life in rural Punjab to the steps of the Wolverhampton Tourist Office - trying to make sense of a life lived among secrets. Praise for The Boy with the Topknot : I absolutely loved it. Heartbreaking and wonderful. He writes beautifully . (Maggie O'Farrell). Could not be more enjoyable, engaging or moving . ( Observer ). Tragic, funny and disturbing. It will challenge you, and may even change you . (Carole Angier, Independent ). Sathnam Sanghera was born in 1976. He is an award-winning journalist who was previously chief feature writer at The Financial Times and now works for The Times . He lives in London. Published in hardback as If You Don't Know Me by Now .