Belonging is an interesting word that can be defined two ways, the first as being the property of someone and the second as being a member of something. Sinha explores the complexity of both meanings within the pages of Belonging.
Sinha’s writing is perceptive, insightful and evocative as the story moves from India to England covering the Indian Cawnpore Massacre of 1857 to the First World War. The lines of what was and wasn’t acceptable behaviour due to the English class and Indian caste systems became increasingly blurred at the time, as new rules were made, bent and broken.
The mystery that lies at the heart of this novel gradually unfolds through Cecily’s account of her marriage to a much older man and their lives in India through the letters that she writes to her sister, Mina, the diary entries of a boy called Henry and Lila’s first person account as she struggles to find out the truth of the event she witnessed as a child but was was too young to understand.
This novel makes you think about the damage that secrets and lies can inflict on the unsuspecting and innocent. Silence is used as a mask, a shield and as a weapon depending on whether or not the protagonist feels like they don’t know where they belong, or that they are the property of someone with no control over their own lives. Every character is a fully realised human being with strengths and weaknesses, and Sinha writes each one with sensitivity and empathy as the truth of each situation is gradually unveiled.
Despite the hardships, cruelty and deception, love is the overriding emotion in this novel, a deep love that comes from understanding what has gone before in the hope that what is to come will be better. Belonging covers an important period of history and is one of my favourite reads of the year.
Published by Myriad Editions. With thanks to the publishers for the review copy.
Find out more about the author here.