WINNER OF THE MAR DE LETRAS PRIZE in Spain
Sammie, the cocaine-snorting international wanderer who moves from a small town childhood in India to Mexico, is linked inextricably to mythical women in a debut novel that embodies Hindu tradition and culture, which left untouched by the Enlightenment, makes no distinction between the real and the magical. But the woman who most influences Sammie is Nani, her frail and ruthless grandmother, who is a witch with the power to enter dreams and shape them.
A first novel of exceptional talent, Nani’s Book Of Suicides explores the cultural identity of an Indian woman through a fund of myths, family lore and contemporary reality.
My grandmother, the witch, is tiny, under five feet tall and fragile looking. Over the years, her wavy hair has thinned into a straggly, snowy knot that is perpetually hidden under her sari. Age has softened her knife-edge features and weariness is now a permanent resident around her tightly clamped mouth. Her dark eyes still flash fiercely, and if you look closely, you can see the glowing coal that has rested in her belly for the last twenty-three years.
For the same number of years she has been chasing me, searching me out with her flashing tigress eyes that bore through my skull and pinion my thoughts, hounding me with the overwhelming weight of her traditions and tales of family honour. Unrelenting in the face of my pleas, my defiance, my hatred for her, she follows me, seeking me out over the continents. She and her band of gnarled wizened harpies.
“Listen to me,” her voice whispers in my head cutting through my headphones, shattering the magic of Macalpine’s perfect guitar riff. The harpies join her, screeching out stories of horror that plague women of our family. Padmini, Draupadi, Meera…”Listen to us, we tried running away. There is no escape.” I can see my grandmother, the witch, grin wickedly, gleefully, from across the seas. Once again, she has found me even though I didn’t send her my address or phone number. “Yes, Nani, of course, Nani. I’m coming home, Nani,” I whisper back, frantically trying to think of another far away land to hide in.
She can cavort in the river like a dolphin, but not a drop of water has passed her lips in the last twenty-three years…”
“A first novel of rare scope and power.” — Hindustan Times
“Sunny Singh makes certain you don’t lie back and enjoy, but sit at the edge of the chair gnawing your nails to the quick as you hypnotically turn the pages…This angst-ridden book is strangely moving…It cuts too close for comfort. Remember to laugh off Sunny Singh’s spell and the eerie feeling that someone has just written a part of your life. It’s just a book after all, not magic.” — Indian Review of Books
“If there is one word that best describes Sunny Singh’s debut novel Nani’s Book of Suicides it is haunting. For its images – surreal, borderline bizarre, even phantasmagoric – remain etched in your memory long after you have turned the last page, rising like eerie spectres from forgotten recesses of the mind when least expected….Using the flashback technique effectively, the author effortlessly switches from adult experience to childhood memory….by its unique content and unusual style, Sunny Singh reveals a rare imagination and potential creativity…” — Deccan Herald
“These stories…blend together within the pages of Sunny Singh’s first novel and tell a haunting tale.” — The Sunday Observer
“The idea behind Suicides is undeniably excellent… She definitely has the talent.” — The Indian Express
“Her first novel is a mix of aromas, like breathing the air of the souk.” — Dolores Massot, ABC
“The author sees the world from the prism of three cultures… The heroine’s journey across several continents becomes an inner journey towards an individual freedom that crosses the whirlwind of sex and drugs… Nani’s Book of Suicides articulated new demands in a way that bypasses the equality of sexes and has its roots instead in the difference.” — Matias Nespolo, El Mundo
“This staggering claim for the novel as metaphor for dreams…” — Victor Andresco quoted by Diego Ortiz in El Faro
“The book exudes a sexual confidence not to be attributed solely to the cosmopolitan personality of Sunny Singh; it is rooted in traditional Indian painting, sculpture and writing… and recalls the admirable lack of amatory reserve of the heroines of that marvellous 11th century Sanskrit classic, ‘Tales of the Vampire’.” — Vicente Molina Foix, El País