September 7, 2012 10:39 pm

Tragic perspectives

This re-imagining of an 18th-century French novel explores what it means to live ‘slightly between two worlds’

Genie and Paul, by Natasha Soobramanien, Myriad Editions, RRP£8.99, 224 pages

 

Siblings Genie and Paul were born in Mauritius but left as children to join their extended family in London. Now in their twenties, they have drifted apart: Genie is happy, but Paul never adapted to life in England and remains nostalgic for home. When he disappears, Genie resolves to find him, and her search brings her to Mauritius’s sister isle: cyclone-ravaged Rodrigues.

Natasha Soobramanien’s superb debut, a modern re-imagining of the 18th-century French novel Paul et Virginie, explores what it means to live “slightly between two worlds”. Each protagonist’s story is told in turn, and their voices deftly differentiated: Genie imagines London’s skyscrapers as “crystalline stalagmites in Superman’s secret cave”, whereas Paul sees only the city’s “dull glint, like the sheen on old meat”. When brother and sister are brought together again at the book’s climax, we come to realise that their perspectives are tragically irreconcilable.

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