Western Lane by Chetna Maroo audiobook review – an agile coming-of-age debut | Audiobooks

Western Lane by Chetna Maroo audiobook review – an agile coming-of-age debut | Audiobooks

After 11-year-old Gopi’s mother dies unexpectedly, she and her older sisters Mona and Khush channel their grief at the local sports centre where their father, known as Pa, teaches them to play squash. “I want you to become interested in something you can do your whole life,” he tells his children.

Set on the outskirts of London in the late 1980s, this Booker-nominated debut novel from Chetna Maroo begins a few days after the funeral, when Pa and his daughters are visiting extended family to mark the end of the mourning period. Their aunt Ranjan frets that the girls are going “wild” and suggests she take one of them off Pa’s hands – “Three is too many,” she tells him. Gopi waits for him to decline the offer but he doesn’t answer. This is typical of Pa, who carries his grief silently, leaving his children confused and looking for clues as to what the future holds.

Maya Saroya is the narrator who deftly inhabits Gopi and her attempts to navigate complex emotions and the mysteries of the adult world. Indeed, much of the power of Maroo’s story lies in what is left unsaid between characters. While the family’s feelings of loss are close to the surface, Pa decides they should work through them with physical exercise rather than talking. Unlike her sisters, Gopi turns out to be a natural at squash and is soon gearing up to take part in a tournament. “A clean hit can stop time,” she says. “Sometimes it can feel like the only peace there is.”

Western Lane by Chetna Maroo is available from Picador, 4hr 21min

Further listening

The Ghost Theatre
Mat Osman, Bloomsbury, 13hr 36min
The Suede bassist’s alternative history of Elizabethan London, featuring a young outcast and bird‑lover named Shay, is narrated by Ellie Kendrick.

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The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Classic Tales of Horror
Edgar Allan Poe, Arcturus, 10hr 5min
Richard Trinder reads this collection by the master of gothic fiction that also includes The Pit and the Pendulum and The Masque of the Red Death.

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