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The Wild Wind

by Sheena Kalayil

Books with reviews by our Reader Review Panel Family Drama Modern and Classic Literary Fiction

LoveReading View on The Wild Wind

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. 

Liz Robinson

The Wild Wind Synopsis

From the winner of the 2018 Writers' Guild Award In 1978, aged twelve, Sissy Olikara was living with her parents and baby brother on a school campus, on the outskirts of Lusaka. But much has changed since her childhood in Zambia: she is now a translator, based in the United States. Looking back, Sissy remembers the gentle routine her family enjoyed, before a series of events disrupt the balance: Ezekiel leaves her parents' employ under a cloud, Jonah arrives to replace him, and then her father leaves, suddenly, to go back to India. The region is also in transition, with Rhodesia to the south and Mozambique to the east both embroiled in internal wars, and when a civilian plane is shot down, the political repercussions begin to spill into their daily lives. With her father gone, Sissy's gaze turns to her mother, Laila, who struggles to cope and must rely on the people around them. Trying to negotiate her way through adolescence, Sissy finds herself at the centre of a complex web of emotions and events that have a long-lasting effect on her.

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MEGA GIVEAWAY! Win a year's worth of reading with our 2019 Star Books!

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The Wild Wind Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title. You can click here to read the full reviews.

I didn't realise just how much I was enjoying reading this until suddenly I had finished the book. Full review

Rachel Aygin

Discovered another new author to add to my list! Full review

Sarah Webb

The Wild Wind by Sheena Kalayil is a triumph! Based on the true story of the author, told very eloquently with passion and humility about her life in Zambia as a child. Full review


A beautiful, eloquent, slowly-unwinding story about family and the places we call home. Full review

Clare Wilkins

A sensitively and beautifully crafted novel which left me longing to read more by Sheena Kalayil. Full review

Val Rowe

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9781846974915
Publication date: 06/06/2019
Publisher: Polygon An Imprint of Birlinn Limited an imprint of Birlinn General
Format: Paperback

Book Information

ISBN: 9781846974915
Publication date: 6th June 2019
Author: Sheena Kalayil
Publisher: Polygon An Imprint of Birlinn Limited an imprint of Birlinn General
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 256 pages
Genres: Reader Reviewed Books, Family Drama, Literary Fiction,
Categories: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945),

About Sheena Kalayil

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 ...

More About Sheena Kalayil

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