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Sheena Kalayil was born in Zambia in 1970 where her parents were teachers seconded from Kerala, India. She arrived in the UK aged eighteen and, after graduating, worked all over the world. She has a doctorate in Linguistics and teaches at the University of Manchester. Her debut novel, The Bureau of Second Chances, won the Writers' Guild Best First Novel Award and was shortlisted for an Edward Stanford Travel Writing Award - Fiction with a Sense of Place. Her next novel, The Inheritance, explored the aftermath of an ill-fated love affair between a lecturer and his student. She lives near Manchester with her husband and two daughters. Click here to read a Q&A with this author.
This is a tenderly written, fascinating and thoughtful semi-autobiographical novel. We follow Sissy through her life, as she experiences growing up in Zambia, and the impact it has left on her as an adult based in the United States. Sheena Kalayil explains that actual events and locations are placed and located in the novel. The prologue sets a beautifully described scene, the difference between the India of Sissy’s grandparents, and Zambia of her childhood settled vividly in my mind’s eye, noise, smells, memories all within touching distance. I particularly adored the small moments, the small actions that made this book feel so tangibly real. Time slides backwards and forwards with no explanation, none is needed. I was occasionally left unsettled as I became aware of the thoughts and feelings of the future Sissy, and waited for an explanation to occur in the past. ‘The Wild Wind’ looks at the presence of memories that bruise, that affect, that create our future selves, it is wonderfully readable and gently provocative too.
Ben Martin is charming and successful: an academic who has raised money for children's charities and worked with women's agencies in sub-Saharan Africa, a devoted husband. But when his brother Francois, an artist based in Lisbon, finds out about Ben's affair with a student, Rita Kalungal, he finds himself feeling responsible both for his brother's actions as well as Rita; and Rita begins to realise that her involvement with Ben has far-reaching consequences on herself and her family, and others.
June 2017 Debut of the Month. Winner of the Writers’ Guild Best First Novel Award 2017 - This gentle yet beautifully told story follows recently-widowed Thomas on a journey back to the India of his birth, where he rediscovers not only himself but also the Bureau of Second Chances. Thomas and his wife Nimmy, had planned to retire together in the small fishing village of Kerala but life doesn’t quite go to plan when Cancer takes Nimmy from him. After a lifetime in London, Thomas returns to their homeland alone and soon begins to reacquaint himself with the traditions and life he left behind. When a friend in need asks him to help run his Optical Store, Thomas soon suspects that there is certainly more at work than meets the eye in the store. For the efficient and trusted assistant Rani is also providing lonely men and women the opportunity for a second chance in life and love. Before long Thomas is discovering himself in a way he hasn’t dared before and begins to hope that life may still yet hold a few surprises and the chance of happiness for him again too. Sheena Kalayil paints a wonderfully atmospheric picture of life in India and captures her characters perfectly so that I became invested in their stories and longed for them to find the happy ending they so deserved. ~ Shelley Fallows