Gifted, Hardback
4 out of 5 (1 rating)


Numbers have filled Rumi Vasi's world since she first learned to count.

But it was on a trip to India at the age of 8 that her mathematical powers acquired their almost supernatural significance.

When she returned home to Cardiff her destiny was sealed: she was now, and would forever be, the town's 'maths prodigy'.

At 14 Rumi is firmly set on the path of a gifted child, speeding headlong towards Oxford University.

As her father sees it, discipline is everything if the family has any hope of making its mark on its adoptive country.

However, as Rumi gets older and the family's stark isolation intensifies, numbers start to lose their magic for the young teenager: she abandons the rigid timetable of her afternoons to seek out friendship and replaces equations with rampant spice abuse.

As her longing for love and her parents' will to succeed deepen so too does the rift between generations."Gifted" captures brilliantly the battle to come of age in an emotional and comic hinterland, where histories, arithmetic and cumin seeds all play a part. In a voice that is by turns very funny and fiercely acute Nikita Lalwani brings vividly to life a young family's search for recognition and how that search can break a family apart.

This is a story of high aspirations and deep desires, and of the sometime loneliness of childhood. "Gifted" is a dazzling debut.




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Lalwani’s novel raises the question of how much can you push your kids academically?Rumika is 10 years old 2 months 13 days 48 minutes and 4 seconds old when the novel opens. When she was just 5, her teacher came to the house to tell her parents that she was a gifted child, and that this gift should be nurtured.Rumika's father, Mahesh, is a maths professor at Cardiff university, and knows that hard work is the immigrant's path to respect and recognition. He takes the idea of coaching his daughter on board and runs with it, imposing a strict regime on her that borders at times on abuse.Rumika longs for normalcy, but as she is forced to study ever harder, her relationship with her cold and scornful father deteriorates even further and she also finds her isolation from her friends increasing. As she enters adolescence she has to carve some freedom for herself, but ends up doing things which are risky and stupid - shop lifting, calling emergency services just because she wants to speak to someone, and harming herself. She also, quite comically, becomes addicted to cumin and munches her way through vast quantities of it. The only period of respite is a trip to India with her mother, Shreene.Lalwani does a very good job of depicting the sense of loneliness and dislocation in the family, and gets right inside her characters and exposes them. No matter how unlikable Mahesh is, we can understand his motivations and fears. Shreene is caught up in traditional notions of propriety and finds it difficult to navigate the compromises that must be made, not only to adapt to British society, but also to be able to understand and reach out to her daughter.This might make for painful reading but there are also some wonderfully comic moments in the novel, my favourite - Shreene trying out a bikini wax after reading about it in a woman's magazine.Rumika wins a place to Oxford, one of the youngest students ever allowed to do a degree course and the move gives her some of the freedom she has been waiting for. Lalwani builds up the sequence of events convincingly and Rumi’s actions come as no surprise. In fact we’re cheering for her as she asserts her independence in the final scenes of the book.This is a novel that young adult readers, particularly those experiencing examination pressure themselves will enjoy very much indeed. It is also an excellent cautionary tale for overly ambitious parents who should be treated to a copy of it by their kids immediately!

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