India, 1947: As Britain prepares to divide the country before leaving, three lives unexpectedly intersect.
The partition of India and Pakistan, based on a border drawn by British civil servants, rarely appears in Western literature, much less fiction for teens. Bradbury pens a careful, respectful—but fictionalized—account of the final days before the line between the countries was announced, recounting it in the voices of three teens. Impulsive, spoiled English Margaret may not be entirely likable, but her love for the strange country she finds herself in is wholly believable and makes her the perfect stand-in for the reader; through Margaret, India in this specific time comes to life, and hard questions about British culpability are asked. Much of Margaret’s complex relationship with India plays out through her growing friendship with Sikh Anupreet, who has been caught in the violence between Sikhs and Muslims already, and Muslim Tariq, who hopes Margaret’s father will be his ticket to Oxford since “[e]veryone listens to the men who have the right education from the right places.” Through Tariq’s and Anu’s voices additional complexities and context are provided. Bradbury’s research (detailed in an author’s note) infuses but never overwhelms the narrative; the lack of solid resolution for the characters suits a book about a violent and confusing time.
Historical fiction that brings its history to bloody, poignant life: rare and notable. (glossary) (Historical fiction. 14 & up)