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London-based Indian Author Chetna Maroo’s Debut Novel ‘Western Lane’ Makes Booker Prize Longlist

London-based Indian Author Chetna Maroo’s Debut Novel ‘Western Lane’ Makes Booker Prize Longlist

  • The book explores grief, sisterhood, and a teenage girl's struggle to transcend herself.

London-based Indian author Chetna Maroo’s debut book “Western Lane” is among this year’s Booker Prize longlist, the Booker Prize Foundation announced earlier this month. It describes the book as “a tender and moving novel about grief, sisterhood, a teenage girl’s struggle to transcend herself – and squash.”

She is among 13 authors whose books “explore universal and topical themes: from deeply moving personal dramas to tragi-comic family sagas; from the effects of climate change to the oppression of minorities; from scientific breakthroughs to competitive sport,” the foundation said. 

Judges said the book, which “skillfully deploys the sport of squash as both context and metaphor, is a deeply evocative debut about a family grappling with grief, conveyed through crystalline language which reverberates like the sound of a ball hit clean and hard…with a close echo.”

“Western Lane” revolves around 11-year-old Gopi “who has been playing squash since she was old enough to hold a racket. When her mother dies, her father enlists her in a quietly brutal training regimen, and the game becomes her world.  

Slowly, she grows apart from her sisters. Her life is reduced to the sport, guided by its rhythms: the serve, the volley, the drive, the shot and its echo. But on the court, she is not alone. She is with her pa. She is with Ged, a 13-year-old boy with his own formidable talent. She is with the players who have come before her. She is in awe.”

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Maroo’s stories have appeared in anthologies and have been published in the Paris Review, the Stinging Fly and the Dublin Review The Kenya-born author was the recipient of the 2022 Plimpton Prize for Fiction, awarded annually since 1993 by the Paris Review to celebrate an outstanding piece of fiction by an emerging writer published in the magazine during the preceding year. Before becoming a full-time writer, she worked as an accountant. 

The long list of 13 books – the ‘Booker Dozen’ – was announced on August 1, 2023 with the shortlist of six books to follow on September 21. The winner of the £50,000 or approximately $100,000 prize will be announced at an event at Old Billingsgate, London, on November 26.

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