The Boy with the Topknot

A Memoir of Love, Secrets and Lies in Wolverhampton

Publisher: Penguin

Review

When successful journalist and materialist Sathnam Sanghera, living the high life of Prada and loft flats, dinner parties and celebrity interviews, was 24 he discovered his father and sister were both suffering from a severe mental illness he hadn't been aware of. As he researched their conditions and how they had come to be hidden (through a lack of understanding of schizophrenia and through family guilty secrets) he started to piece together his family history and that of his parents. Each family member is memorable, from his silent father obsessed with BBC Parliament despite his lack of English; his mother- neurotic and obsessed with tradition, with finding him a wife of equal caste and culture - holding the family together; his brother with his growing obsessions with fashion icons of the times and his two sisters, funny and nasty in equal measure.

The book closes with a letter to his mother, explaining the choices he has made in life and the secret life of dating white girls and the amount of panic and depression it causes him. The book isn't all misery and family repression though. It's warm and funny - especially in the scene where he has his hair cut for the first time, a big Sikh no-no. The book moves along quickly, never boring, always painting an interesting picture of a family dealing with mental illness and a family dealing with the cultural differences of old and new, East and West.

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