One Small Voice

An Observer best debut novel for 2023

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Pub Date 23 Feb 2023 | Archive Date 23 Feb 2023

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Description

AN OBSERVER BEST DEBUT NOVEL FOR 2023

'A joy to read, a full universe of feeling, an effortless page-turner by a born storyteller' Max Porter, author of Grief is the Thing with Feathers

'Devastating and intimate, and political and radical all at the same time. Bhattacharya's storytelling talents are limitless' Nikesh Shukla

'Exceptional ... you have complete faith that Bhattacharya will take you to all the right places. Heartbreaking and yet so full of hope' Melody Razak, author of Moth
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India, 1992. The country is ablaze with riots. In Lucknow, ten-year-old Shubhankar witnesses a terrible act of mob violence that will alter the course of his life: one to which his family turn a blind eye.

As he approaches adulthood, Shabby focuses on the only path he believes will buy him an escape - good school, good degree, good job, good car. But when he arrives in Mumbai in his twenties, he begins to question whether there might be other roads he could choose. His new friends, Syed and Shruti, are asking the same questions : together, buoyed by the freedom of the big city, they are rewriting their stories.

But as the rising tide of nationalism sweeps across the country, and their friendship becomes the rock they all cling to, this new life suddenly seems fragile. And before Shabby can chart his way forward, he must reckon with the ghosts of his past . . .

Dazzling and deeply moving, One Small Voice is a novel of modern India: of violence and prejudice, friendship and loyalty, community and tradition, and of a young man coming of age in a country on fire.
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'A thrilling novel about how one horrific incident can echo through a life, changing it irrevocably. Bhattacharya writes beautifully about friendship, family and the devastating consequences of secrecy and shame in a narrative that powerfully evokes the complexities of coming of age in modern India' Ben Fergusson

'Bhattacharya has the enviable ability of creating a cast of characters that feel as real as any person I've met. His effortless writing sings on the page, and by the time you get to the end, you'll wish you didn't have to leave his mind so soon' Kasim Ali, author of Good Intentions

'Whilst the plot turns on our capacity for cruelty, Bhattacharya's book brims with compassion. A novel about the complexities of adulthood, and the shame we all carry, that is both fearless and kind' Clare Pollard, author of Delphi

AN OBSERVER BEST DEBUT NOVEL FOR 2023

'A joy to read, a full universe of feeling, an effortless page-turner by a born storyteller' Max Porter, author of Grief is the Thing with Feathers

'Devastating...


Advance Praise

'An exceptional debut. Bhattacharya gives us India in all its messy glory. There is a timeless, mythical quality to this book and yet it manages to be so perfectly contemporary, touching on politics and family and friendship all through the eyes of a boy caught in a moment of darkness, trying to find his way out. The narrative simmers with violence, past and present. The structure is tightly held and from the start you have complete faith that Bhattacharya will take you to all the right placesHeartbreaking and yet so full of hope' Melody Razak, author of Moth  

'Bhattacharya has the enviable ability of creating a cast of characters that feel as real as any person I've met. His effortless writing sings on the page, and by the time you get to the end, you'll wish you didn't have to leave his mind so soon' Kasim Ali, author of Good Intentions

‘Whilst the plot turns on our capacity for cruelty, Bhattacharya’s book brims with compassion. A novel about the complexities of adulthood, and the shame we all carry, that is both fearless and kind’ Clare Pollard, author of Delphi

'An emotional and bold portrait of the often hidden realities of sectarian violence and burgeoning growth of modern India, exploring the impact of circumstances on our collective psyche through characters we bond with. A rare voice that rewards us with hope and recognition' Tice Cin, author of Keeping the House

'An exceptional debut. Bhattacharya gives us India in all its messy glory. There is a timeless, mythical quality to this book and yet it manages to be so perfectly contemporary, touching on politics...


Available Editions

EDITION Other Format
ISBN 9780241582336
PRICE £14.99 (GBP)
PAGES 304

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Featured Reviews

I have turned the last page, tears settled on my eyelashes and I take a deep breath trying to ground myself while in my minds eye flames flicker and grow. I feel I know Shabby as well as I know my own son and while Santanu Bhattacharya brought the novel to a stop like a conductor lowers the baton on a perfect symphony, there is a huge longing to follow his life for the next year, or two, or forever.
This book deals with so many modern ills and social issues at once that it should be a mess; difficult to understand or superficial as if no one strand of the story is important enough to take centre stage but perhaps the novel is its own metaphor for modern India. Bright, brash, tender, scented with promise. So much technological growth and yet so much unchanged from Colonial rule. Every strand is important because every strand is connected to every other. At its heart a coming of age story about a boy’s journey to manhood finding his own place in a world that has changed so much since his parents generation’s own youth but it is also a story of nationalism and the interference of the state in acts of worship, race, ritual observance, oppression and the possibility of change. Turn the page and it is a story of family and the weight of parental expectations, then a treatise on unrecognised buried mental health issues. It is a story of class and caste and an exploration of how best to help those you seek to help, by being with them in the trenches or getting as wealthy as possible in order to have a voice that is listened to so that you can advocate on their behalf.
I could wax lyrical all night about how huge, how wonderful and how beautifully written and woven this novel is but you’re going to have to take my word for it until you can read it for yourself!

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𝙾𝚗𝚎 𝚂𝚖𝚊𝚕𝚕 𝚅𝚘𝚒𝚌𝚎 𝚋𝚢 𝚂𝚊𝚗𝚝𝚊𝚗𝚞 𝙱𝚑𝚊𝚝𝚝𝚊𝚌𝚑𝚊𝚛𝚢𝚊 𝚒𝚜 𝚍𝚞𝚎 𝚝𝚘 𝚋𝚎 𝚙𝚞𝚋𝚕𝚒𝚜𝚑𝚎𝚍 𝟸𝟹 𝙵𝚎𝚋𝚛𝚞𝚊𝚛𝚢 𝟸𝟶𝟸𝟹

This is such a compelling and hard hitting coming of age story set in modern India. At 10 years old Shabby is caught up in an incident of mob violence, witnessing a violent murder. We watch on as he has to navigate life, dealing with the trauma of an incident his family don't acknowledge.

Initially, i was a little confused about the timeline as the story plays out. Shabby's story weaves in and out of his past to the present, in a country of extremes, a hierarchical society greatly influenced by so much diversity in religion, language, politics, wealth affected by a north south divide, a religious divide, and strong family expectations. Bhattacharya develops an intense story, depicting the rich and complex tapestry of India so well through Shabby and his relationships - with friends, family, memory and identity. By mid-story i was so invested in Shabby's future i couldn't stop reading, anxious for his wellbeing and future. And each time i thought the story was going to be a predictable drama, Bhattacharya takes a sharp turn and opens my eyes, my mind and heart!! I absolutely loved the ending. This is a 4.5⭐️ read and one to look out for next year! It's a book i initially thought was not for me but it took me on a journey that left me feeling hopeful. And yes, i shed a tear!

Thank you to #NetGalley for the ebook in exchange for an honest review.

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I loved this book. It is a beautifully written and compelling story about trauma and how it takes over a life. It’s about the tragedy of a life lost due to a single childhood event and it’s repercussions. But this book is written with a light touch, with warmth and with care. It is not a depressing story. I am sure we will be hearing a lot more about this book and author once the book is published.

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Set over a twenty five year time frame, this is the coming of age story of Shabby. It is also a brilliant telling of the rise of nationalism in India from the 90’s to more recent times. The book references the wider historical context of India and its Colonial past.

Early in the book Shabby experiences significant trauma when he witnesses a mob murder; the trauma is compounded when he understands that adults know about it but ignore/deny it. What he witnessed informs the whole book but we are aware from early on that there is more trauma in store for Shabby.

I waited to read this book on holiday as I knew much of it was set in Mumbai so I wanted to read it in the heat. I’m so pleased I did as I somehow felt even more immersed in Shabby’s story.

The themes of this book are BIG covering ritual, societal norms, how young people experience the world, discrimination, trauma, sexuality but the humanness of the characters is what shone through the most. Santanu Bhattacharya writes female characters so well, I loved Shabby’s Nani and her openness to her grandson later in the story, thank you for bringing some powerful women to life! I have been thinking of them long after finishing the book.

Finally the book renewed my belief in the power and absolute necessity of the arts, both in the writing of the book and within the story of Shabby and his art.

A five star recommendation that will stay with you.

Thanks to @Netgalley for the advance read

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