Last night I unwrapped my advance copies of The Lilliputians.
In the wake of the Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s recent speech on the Asian Century it seemed especially appropriate to be opening the parcel of books while sitting in a hotel in Mumbai.
The Lilliputians is the Indian edition, published by New Delhi publishers Young Zubaan, of my novel India Dark.The original title of the novel was Escaping Lilliput so I was pleased to have this edition have a title closer to my original concept.
Several chapters of the novel are set in Mumbai – or Bombay – as it was called when the children in the story spent Christmas here, just over a century ago.
Although the 21st century may be tagged the Asian Century, history illustrates that the titles we give things are simply shaped by the narratives we tell ourselves.
Every era is rich with stories that we either ignore or choose to engage with. The children who toured India and south-east Asia in the early 1900s must have felt they were living in a very Asian century.
There are boxes everywhere. Everything in the house has to be touched at least once and a decision made about its fate. Do we store it, take it, sell it, give it to one of the kids (provided they even want it!) or throw it away? Thousands of books, hundreds of puppets, mountains of junk – the list of things to do runs for pages. We started the process a couple of months ago and the end is very dimly in sight. But sometimes I feel like my head is going to explode.
Then this morning I was sent a very cheering email from a friend and I remembered that I have done things other than pack and sort. That I actually have a life that is separate to all this domestic chaos.
My friend had scanned a page from the December issue of Better Homes & Gardens that included a great write-up of ‘India Dark’ by reviewer Caroline Baum. There isn’t an internet link to the page on the Better Homes & Gardens website but here’s the short and punchy review. (I especially loved the last line):
Kirsty Murray, Allen & Unwin, S16.99
This little corker is based on a true story of a troupe of Australian child
performers who rebelled against their exploitative manager in 1910.
As the troupe travels by train across lndia, money runs short, tempers
fray and secrets are exposed, The two young narrators offer different
interpretations of events, creating a layered tale full of tension and
intrigue. The months Murray spent in India researching the book show
in its authentic, colourful settings. A gem that could become a classic.