This is a book which has been written by someone now safely entrenched in the world of historical fiction. It is Kunal Basu’s third book, the other being The Miniaturist and the Opium Clerk. The cover has the picture of a young black boy, and aesthetically the verdant sense of fronds and the sky imprinted by clouds and exotic rorsach of images makes one wonder what the book is about. Basu plays with the common themes of the magic island and survival experiments; Treasure Island, Captain Hook and Peter Pan, Dr. Moriarty, Blue Lagoon, the Lord of the Flies and more recently Dinosaur type science fiction a la Michael Crichton, not to speak of Booker winner Barry Unsworth’s Sacred Hunger. Yet, being a university intellectual, Basu sets the frames differently. It follows an idea — that of racial superiority and survival mechanisms which has at its hub two children. The children are located as ‘œcases’ who are in the care of a speechless nurse, a lovely vulnerable tactile young woman called Norah.
August 2006, volume 30, No 8