The In-Between World of Vikram Lall
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The In-Between World of Vikram Lall

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  2,000 ratings  ·  136 reviews
Vikram Lall comes of age in 1950s Kenya, at the same time that the colony is struggling towards independence. Against the unsettling backdrop of Mau Mau violence, Vic and his sister Deepa, the grandchildren of an Indian railroad worker, search for their place in a world sharply divided between Kenyans and the British. We follow Vic from a changing Africa in the fifties, to...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published November 8th 2005 by Vintage (first published December 31st 1999)
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Scotiabank Giller Prize winners
14th out of 21 books — 44 voters
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Books Set in Kenya
14th out of 122 books — 51 voters


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Shelly Sanders
The Globe and Mail say this book belongs "in a category with Tolstoy's War and Peace. As a fan of Russian literature, especially Tolstoy, I had to give this book a read. This turned out to be a good decision; just as Tolstoy pulls readers back into Russian history, Vassanji takes readers on a journey through time in Africa. Alternating between the present and past, the narrator, Vikram Lall tells the remarkable story of his life as an Indian boy growing up as a minority in Nakru. I am instantly...more
Ben Babcock
This is my first book of the year, and it took me quite some time to get into it.

Few things annoy me more than when an author decides to ignore such a useful stylistic conventions as using quotation marks to offset dialogue! I like quotation marks. It makes the book easier to parse and gives me a clear idea of who is saying what. I discarded Blindness for similar reasons. Had I not been more favourably disposed to M.G. Vassanji after reading The Assassin's Song , I might have done the same thin...more
Susan
So much terror and love and loyalties and human failings to explore in this book. And what a sense of safety to do it in the hands of an exceptional storyteller and word artist such as Vassanji. It was a bonus, as well, to learn about the political history of Kenya in the 1950s – 80s through the richly imagined characters who embodied all aspects of those 3-way racially charged times. As for my 4 stars instead of 5 … I simply could not buy into that last page. So much to ponder en route to that...more
Shane
I found the writing a bit stilted although the subject matter was most interesting
Kristel
I picked this one up as part of my continuing efforts to read all the winners of the Giller prize. (I've read 12, I think, of 16.) MG Vassanji is a two-time winner of the prize and his other winner, The Book of Secrets, is still on my to-be-read pile. (It's also on my mental to-be-bought list, but one day...)

From The New Yorker, a description: In this novel set among Kenya's Indian diaspora, two ill-fated loves—Vikram Lall's for a young English girl, his sister's for a young African man—symboliz...more
Ali
Synopsis
Sweeping in scope, both historically and geographically, Vassanji weaves a rich tapestry of vivid characters, real and imagined, in a Kenya poised between colonialism and independence. Vikram Lall, like his adopted country, inhabits an 'in-between world': between the pull of his ancestral home in India and the Kenya he loves passionately; between his tragic past in Africa and an unclear future in Canada; between escape from political terror and a seemingly inevitable return home ...a ret...more
Stevecrandell
Vassanji has written a beautiful and tragic epic of 20th century Kenya. Jomo Kenyatta, the first President, was brutal. As were the Mau Maus, when they hacked apart women and children in their war to end British colonialism.

These horrors provide a context, but not the core. There are more subtle, personal brutalities at work. Vikram Lall is an Indian Kenyan, well-placed in-between conflicts and threats. He finds racism in every aspect of life – from his mother, to his colleagues, to his best fr...more
Seema
This book focuses on an Indian family that decides to stay in Kenya after independence from the British, which is absolutely fascinating to me because my mom's family (and so many others) fled. It started out strong and I loved learning about Nakuru and the complicated cultural and political dynamics between the Indians, the British, the Masai, and the Kikuyus. However, I found the story-telling a bit choppy and didn't think the Canada piece really worked. In any case, I'm looking forward to rea...more
Janice
Jun 24, 2007 Janice added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
This is a great book for its characters, less the narrator's than the profound understanding he shows for the people who are a part of and affect his life. There is no depiction of good or evil, just people caught inside the strenghts and weakness of who they are and the circumstances in which they live. There is a poignant space throughout the book, a despair almost - a space we typically bridge with anger and judgement - where the human limitations of people with great power: political leaders...more
Karrie
This book has everything in it: family, friendship, love, post-colonialism, racism, sexism, corruption, passion, tragedy, betrayal....everything! A truly talented writer, Vassanji tells us the story of Vik Lall, a loveable yet often spineless character who is deemed to be one of the most corrupt men in Africa. We meet Vik as a child, and watch his life unfold in Kenya in a tumultuous time. Just read it-- I finished it some months ago, and am tempted to read it again already.
Alice
I really wish there were parts of stars iin this rating system. I would give this one a 3.7. I enjoyed this book primarily because I liked learning about Kenyan independence from the perspective of its Asian citizens - interesting stuff on family, race, ethnicity, nationality, citizenship, that sort of stuff. I liked the characters. This book didn't blow me out of the water, but it is a quick read and one I would recommend - would be a good one for a book club.
Pratibha
Story based in Nakuru, small towns around Nakuru and Nairobi soon after independence. It tells stories of what Indians went thru and the fear that they had live with. For me, it was a fascinating read since I grew up in Nakuru.
Julia
This is an important account of the strife and pain in Africa during post-colonial times. The history is complex. Vassanji has written a novel that revolves around a boy who during this difficult time in history struggles with what is expected of him and what his heart is telling him to do. He has to make choices between idealism and lawlessness.

I thought the writing itself was rather hard to become engaged with. I often got lost with the names and who is saying what, which left me not knowing w...more
Courtney
Hands down, one of the best and most compelling works of fiction I've read in a long time. Rich characters and an interesting historical context.
Adam
This was recommended reading for the ACM Tanzania program. It's clear why. The drama of this book is intertwined with the drama of Tanzania's independence and growth as a young nation. Vikram's early years are colored by the dark, fearful nights of the Mau Mau revolutionaries, by the blind oppression of the British; his later years are defined by the corruption of Kenya's post-colonial government. His unique personality flows from the cultural interactions between the immigrant Indian community...more
Julie
The story started off very strong, but by the middle I began to get bored with it. It didn't have the same flare that it began with. The ending made it all worth sticking with it until the end. So all in all, a good read.

I enjoyed the look at the lives off the characters and how they lived and tried to survive in Kenya. The author gave some glimpses of the country and what life was like for those who lived there during the time period. The author also did a good job at exploring some of the pol...more
Nancy
Well, I am loving MG Vassanji, the author. This is his second Giller Prize winner and the second book of his I have now read, and I am happy.

He was born in Kenya and raised in Tanzania and since 1978 lives in Toronto and the two novels of his I have read so far have focused on these three countries and the intermingled and complex histories of Kenya and Tanzania.

This story plays out a bit like a mystery because from page 1 the narrator, Vikram Lall, tells us that he is corrupt and hated in his c...more
Tim
A wonderful book if one has lived in Kenya and knows the geography and the people by personal experience. I was fortunate to have lived there so it was very authentic and vivid. If I hadn't lived there, this would drop to a three, because the world Vassanji paints is so hard to enter.

The story is set in Kenya as World War II ends, the British Empire dissolves, nationhood is bestowed on former colonies, and many dreams and hopes are steadily betrayed. In the middle of those broad sweeps, the stor...more
Arlie
Vikram Lall has been labelled one of the most corrupt men in Africa. In Vassanji's novel, he ceases the chance to tell his story. What emerges is a complex and personal look at life in Kenya from the 70's to the 90's. Vikram is a self-professed non-political person, so his story grows all the more interesting as he recounts political events from a neutral point of view. He has his own perceptions and feelings, but they are never crowded by higher political ideals or agendas. The reader comes awa...more
Eric Wright
Although this Booker prize-winning story seems to start slow with the adventures of some young playmates in the dusty streets of a Kenyan town, the story becomes compelling. From the beginning Vassanji drops subtle hints of tragedies to come that affect the playmates as they grow; the English boy and girl representing the British colonial administration, the Kikuyu boy representing the tribal people, and Vikram and his sister Deepa representing the Indians brought in to build the railway who bec...more
Taslim Jaffer
Vikram Lall is an Indian boy growing up in Kenya during colonial times; his grandfather left his homeland of India to work on the Kenyan railways, laying down its rails and the foundation for his family’s life in this new, breath-takingly beautiful country. He and his sister, Deepa, befriend a Kikuyu boy Njoroge and two British children, brother and sister Bill and Annie Bruce. The five of them form a complicated bond during a time when the British were in power, and were using the Asians to aid...more
Shirley Schwartz
This book is another worthy winner of the prestigious Giller Prize. It won the award in 2003. It is written by an author that really knows how to tell a story. The story spans 4 decades of time and is located mostly in Kenya, but switches back regularly to present-day Canada near Lake Ontario. Vikram Lall is a character that you will never forget. Born to Indian parents in African Kenya, we see his life as it unfolds around all the political turmoil in this former British colony. But there is so...more
Annalisa
I picked this book up at the library on the recommendation of Mordecai Richler. The author is praised by M.R. in his biography. I was reading Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children at the same time, and The In-between World of Vikram Lal was definitely the light read by comparison. I loved it. It takes place in 1950/1960 Kenya and tells the story of a Kenyan family who hail from India. As the daughter of parents who spent time in Uganda in the early 60's when Africa was a place of unlimited promis...more
Hayley Smith-Kirkham
This book takes place in Kenya, and the narrator (Vikram Lall) was born in Kenya of an Indian family. Which makes the book very real for me at the moment. I've been interested in further understanding what it's like for all of the Indian families that still populate East Africa. Seriously they're still their own merchant class, at least here in Uganda (even after Amin), and in about six weeks I'll see what it's like in Kenya.
The book opens in the 1950s, towards the end of colonialism and during...more
Daniela
I knew it! I really enjoyed this novel, which incidently won The Giller Prize in 2003.
A great piece of historical fiction intertwined with unforgettable characters and their stories. The main character Vikram Lall is of Indian descent but was born and raised in Nakuru, Kenya. He tells the story through a series of flashbacks from the perspective of an older man who now lives in Canada. He has made millions and been declared one of the most corrupt men in Africa. That will keep you interested al...more
Miranda
"This was our January read on the Fiction Lovers website, and our theme was Canadian authors. I had read the Book of Secrets, which I loved, and so was anxious to pick this one up. The book itself takes place shortly after the separation of India from Pakistan, and covers the fight for Kenyan independance from British rule. The charactors once again were vividly drawn, although for some reason I wasn't as enthusiastic about the story as I was with his Book of Secrets. This was a time period I wa...more
Stacey
There is something to be said about a book that succeeds in being emotionally removed and yet heartbreaking at the same time. Such is the case with this book. You never really get a sense of feeling from the book's protagonist -- a man who introduces himself as having 'the distinction of having been numbered one of Africa's most corrupt men, a cheat of monstrous and reptilian cunning.' Despite this, as his story progresses you find that you relate to him more and more.

It is at the same time a d...more
Alison
The In-Between World of Vikram Lall by M.G.Vassanji is set in Kenya in the second half of the twentieth century - a time of rapid change, turbulence, violence and displacement. Vic and his sister Deepa, born in Kenya, but grandchildren of an Indian railway worker, seek to find their place as adults in the only country they've ever called home. Told through the voice of Vic, who at the time of narration is now living in exile in Canada, the novel is pervaded with a sense of foreboding as Vic desc...more
Juliet
I walked into Vikram Lall's world, and saw the same old issues of race, culture and history that I've known about since childhood but from a different perspective.

The amoral stance of the narrator somewhat negates just fury in some instances such as when Mrs. Lall declares Njoroge 'African' and unsuitable to marry Deepa. But I think that is what lets me get to the end of the story.

I thought of Paul Kamlesh Pattni quite a bit as I read, wondered if he had a story of his own to tell, something t...more
Darlene
Like the slow, steady drip of an intravenous catheter, this story injects the reader with an osmotic infusion of the political and personal upheavals in Kenya, beginning in 1953, among European colonizers, native Africans and second generation Indian Africans.
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Moyez G. Vassanji was born in Kenya and raised in Tanzania. Before coming to Canada in 1978, he attended MIT and the University of Pennsylvania, where he specialized in theoretical nuclear physics. From 1978-1980 he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Atomic Energy of Canada, and from 1980 to 1989 he was a research associate at the University of Toronto. During this period he developed a keen interes...more
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The Book of Secrets The Assassin's Song The Magic of Saida No New Land The Gunny Sack

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