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3.20  ·  Rating details ·  189 ratings  ·  53 reviews
On November 1st 1984, a day after the assassination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, a nineteen-year-old student travels back from a class trip with his mentor and chemistry teacher, Professor Singh. As the group disembark at Delhi station a mob surrounds the professor, throws a tire over him, douses him in gasoline and sets him alight.

Years later the student, Raj,
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published August 6th 2013 by Bloomsbury USA (first published June 18th 2013)
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Average rating 3.20  · 
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Disclaimer: I received an e-copy of this book for review from NetGalley.

I was recently browsing around on NetGalley after, oh... Two years of inactivity there, or so. I saw this book, and it looked really intriguing to me. I loved the cover, and the book description sounded fantastic - a story about India's turbulent recent history, the assassination of Indira Gandhi... Intriguing stuff.

I really wanted to love this book. I was hoping that it would speak to me and allow me to learn something of
Ellen Shifrin
Feb 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
I really liked it, although the prose style kept me on my toes so to speak. I heard Mr. Singh interviewed, and then got the book, and while I don't remember the interview, I will remember the book. It deals with the November '84 Sikh massacre, so it's not light reading, but so many wonderful moments of wisdom. For example: “Clara has her romantic ideas of India and she clings to those ideas and I am a personification of those ideas. I am not allowed to narrate the dark side of that romance – how ...more
Ayelet Waldman
Jan 24, 2014 rated it liked it
I'm obsessed with anything about India so I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
Shreya Vaid
Feb 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
''Primo Levi survived the German Nazis and Italian Fascists because he helped them prepare Buna Rubber during the war. In India, my compatriots slipped rubber around Professor Singh's neck and set him on fire.''- Raj, Helium

Some books are written as fiction, but when you read them, they barely feel like one. Helium by Jaspreet Singh is a political novel set in the time of 1984 Sikh riots in Delhi. On 6th June, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ordered tanks into Golden Temple at Amritsar and those t
Darcee Kraus
Jun 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
A riveting tale that brings up many questions of human compassion, as well as individuality so pure that it has been unseen this year in literature until now.

Darcee Kraus
Mckinleyville, CA
Jan 07, 2015 rated it liked it
Considering that most art that matters (Does it, really? Why most? Doesn't all art matter? Anyways!) is a creatively articulate individual's response to the surrounding world, what does one do as a passive reader when the dirty particulars of the parent subject also creep their way into it? Other than elasticising my empathy and knowledge, I am somewhat troubled when I am bombarded with page after page of incriminating documents and testimonies, like I am in Singh's Helium. I went through someth ...more
Jul 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
I won an Advance Reading Copy of this book through a Goodreads giveaway, so I'm unsure if any parts will be edited. My review is based on the copy I received.

Initially this story seems to follow the same formula as The Kite Runner - Grown man must return to his homeland to reconcile the horrors witnessed in his youth and in the process discovers secrets about his father and his own past. Unlike The Kite Runner, this one did not wrap up nicely with a little bow on top. I prefer some ambiguity in
May 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
couldnt put this book down, talked about a story that I knew nothing about, and of all the riots and murderous rampages that have occurred in India, Im surprised that I was not exposed to this sooner. One thing that strikes me as odd is the absolute lack of guilt on the part of Nelly or the narrator. Nelly, for cheating on her husband with his student, maybe in the events that came after the affair, guilt about her husband was the last thing she had to think about. I think there must have been e ...more
Dec 28, 2013 rated it it was ok
I can't add much more than has already been said about this book. Interesting topic, of which I had no previous knowledge, but couldn't follow the narrative at all. I actually thought I was reading an autobiography at the beginning. Maybe it was loosely based on the authors own experience? Who knows. And I never got to grip with the symbolisms included.

I probably wont ever read another one by this author as I found this book to fragmentary and sadly the main character wasn't someone I ended up
Ian Laird
Jun 05, 2016 rated it did not like it
Finished this through willpower - eviscerating full review to follow...
Jan 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
A moving, emotional work that brings us into the mind of a witness to genocide. Sometimes it was hard to read because of how freely the author switches from narration to dialogue, but I was able to quickly able to adjust. It's painful, complicated and enraging all at once, but also very sentimental and human. A great read to get a basic idea about the political and cultural conflicts in modern India.
Jun 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: asia, historical
Having just visited both Delhi and Shimla, I found this book fascinating. It is not that easy to read, the author's style is unusual, but I couldn't put the book down. It's not normal for me to want to go back and begin a book again, but I feel I missed so much first time through, that a re-read is a must.

Nourhan Jamal
Mar 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Disturbingly beautiful. Tragic.
4.5 because I took a long time than I should have, because I was dealing with uni responsibilities that was impeding my reading pace.
"Worth is the ocean. Fame is but the bruit that roars along the shadows."
Gabrielle Trenbath
May 02, 2018 rated it it was ok
I kept on trying to finish this book but however hard I tried I just couldn’t. The narrative was just so slow it just couldn’t keep my attention
Sep 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Eliot Parulidae
Mar 16, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
A genocide is a formidable subject for a novel, even if the author has a personal connection to the event. Humans, readers, lack the capacity for limitless empathy, and the author discovers that it is his or her task to expand the valence shell of understanding by appealing to readers' quirks and biases. This may mean talking about a specific group of victims: the children, for instance, or the nerds. Yes, the nerds. The intellectuals cruelly deceived by Mao's Hundred Flowers Campaign, the peopl ...more
Jul 05, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: first-reads
On page 99 of my copy (an advanced reading copy), the narrator reminds us his beloved professor thought the three most important questions involved the origin of the universe, the origin of life, and the origin of the mind. He then refutes these questions by suggesting three more important ones, the ones that, for me, were my understanding of the novel: why do people respond differently to traumatic events, how do we remember the past, and why when "meaning" collapses in our lives do some of us ...more
Vidhya Nair
Oct 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Helium has an interesting narrative. The author speaks, taking you into the past, present & his inner thoughts. The book is written lyrically & as you process the novel, you begin to be drawn into the personal trauma the protagonist has gone through in light of the 1984 aftermath of Indra Gandhi's death. It might have been just 3 days but the story reveals the categorical lynching of the physical, emotional & psychological spirit of Sikh people & those who loved them. The book makes you empathiz ...more
John Buissink
Jul 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book has some strong points and some weaknesses. The most difficult aspect of this story was figuring out whether we were in the present or the past. The narrative tended to follow a stream of consciousness to which only the writer was privy. Once I sorted out in which time period I was reading, the story made much more sense. Is this a love story or a political expose of the horrendous acts perpetrated by the Indian government during 1984? Is this book trying to help the narrator cleanse h ...more
Oct 04, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
An example of important fiction that crosses between cultures and provides us with insights into other worlds and perspectives, lessening our ignorance of events which often account for the unspoken attitudes and undercurrents present in countries that visitors, travellers and outsiders rarely gain access to.

Helium centres around Raj, a scientist who was an only child; we learn he left India 25 years before and will discover the reason why, along with his continuous fascination for science, the
Aug 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Read this book in 4 days. A very non-linear and incoherent style of writing. A book that juxtaposes the holocaust, rheology, art and science by a plot that revolves around the 1984 anti Sikh riots. This book can make your blood boil at what the Congress has made of our nation through these past decades and make you weep at the plight of the victims of the riots that occurred in November '84. The author does not mince words and names quite a few Congress stalwarts who instigated and lead the mobs ...more
Jul 17, 2014 rated it did not like it
I just couldn't get into the story.The writing and the style just didn't work for me.I felt no connection to any character or get into anyone's head.

It also felt distant and cold, as though Raj's own history meant nothing to him. He describes witnessing a mob of men throw a tire over his teacher - his friend - and set him on fire as though it was nothing. He tells the story wihtout investing real emotion.

Ironically, as the narrator to be a rheologist and study flow, there was no flow to this
Kate Dee
Apr 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: school
This is certainly no easy read. The style is unusual, the way it is narrated requiring constant attention, and the topic is far from comfortable. It reads like a person's memory, which it is supposed to be. The plot isn't revealed in a linear fashion. It jumps between times and events, seemingly random scientific facts thrown in again and again. It draws the reader into the troubled mind of a traumatized man who tries to come to terms with a horrible event that happened in his past but never let ...more
Moon Love
Sep 27, 2013 rated it liked it
I didn't completely understand this book. The half I understood brought tears to my eyes and made my heart ache. The other half just left me with a headache trying to figure out what was going on. One thing I liked about this book was the use of images. I'm a person who is very visual so it was great for me. Usually instead of "seeing" what the author/character/narrator wants me to see I saw the actual vision.

I applaud the author for writing about a subject that has gotten little to no coverage
Apr 27, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a tough book to get through. I wouldnt say i enjoyed it, but it was good and I learned.
To begin with, the subject matter is difficult. This book relates to the attrocities of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in India, a topic I previously knew nothing about. Secondly, the narrative follows the protagonist's stream of consciousness and jumps around in time and location. Sometimes it is unclear as to who is speaking.

But aside from the confusion, the story is compelling and quite grim. Certainly n
World Literature Today
"In this fictional work, Jaspreet Singh captures the traumatic events that followed the prime minister’s assassination within the narrative of Raj, a professor of rheology at Cornell University. The fragmented narrative is constructed like memory, shifting back and forth between past and present as Raj attempts to reconcile his place during one of India’s most turbulent times." - Melissa Weiss, University of Oklahoma

This book was reviewed in the May 2014 issue of World Literature Today. Read the
Nov 08, 2014 rated it liked it
I found the style of writing quite confusing at times as it kept jumping around, and sometimes had to re-read bits as I worked out which year, or conversation was being referred to.

Delhi riots post Indira Gandhi killing is something I know about only from a distance, had heard some stories from relatives, but it was interesting and disturbing to read how much blood shed and hatred was around at that time. The book is narrated by a Hindu, but taking the side of the Sikhs.
A valuable and interesti
Oct 02, 2013 rated it it was ok
Glad someone attempted to write on the subject but it was more a citation of historical facts than a story where the characters come alive and you connect emotionally. I ended up finishing reading the book because I felt if I didn't it would in some way be a dishonor to those who lived through those vicious days in 1984. Perhaps my expectations were too high prior to reading based on some of the reviews. I was hoping for something similar to a Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hoesseni. Oh well.
Cheyenne Carden
Jun 06, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: won-on-goodreads
I got this through Goodreads;

Sadly I did not finish the book, I tried super hard but just couldn't. I felt that Jaspreet 'the author' wasn't very clear on things. His grammar was also not the best, but then again they warned us that there was going to be some mistake. I feel if you were to edit it (which will happen probably), it would be a really good book. Sorry for the bad review, but I had to say something.
Sanjay Tillani
i would like to rate this book 3 and a half. The book is interesting beyond doubt and the subject is carefully picked and had a great narrative but the problem was that the story' pace was not consitent. When the story starts it gives another dimension but it it drops that majestic dimension in between and then again it aroused, o, basically not consistent. I liked the title and the comparison of human with helium was literally, unique.

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Jaspreet Singh (born 1969) is a Canadian writer.
He grew up in India and moved to Canada in 1990.


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