You People by Nikita Lalwani
Title: You People
Author: Nikita Lalwani
Published Date: April 2nd 2020
Length: 240 pages
Genre: Fiction, Cultural, European Literature, British Literature
Rating: 3.75 /5
The Pizzeria Vesuvio looks like any other Italian restaurant in London – with a few small differences. The chefs who make the pizza fiorentinas are Sri Lankan, and half the kitchen staff are illegal immigrants.
At the centre is Tuli, the restaurant’s charismatic proprietor and resident Robin Hood, who promises to help anyone in need. Welsh nineteen-year-old Nia, haunted by her troubled past, is running from her family. Shan, having fled the Sri Lankan civil war, is desperate to find his.
But when Tuli’s guidance leads them all into dangerous territory, and the extent of his mysterious operation unravels, each is faced with an impossible moral choice.
In a world where the law is against you, how far would you be willing to lie for a chance to live?
This book was like reading through someone’s diary? At times it felt invasive but also I couldn’t really stop?
Considering the whole Brexit thing, this book might have brought up a whole lot of nostalgia for the people who actually do live in Britain. Even I felt nostalgic about the place for heaven’s sake!
It’s mostly focused on Nia, a Bengali nineteen years old who’s currently waitressing and Shan, a Tamil from Sri Lanka who’s working as a cook at the same pizzeria. It’s called Pizzeria Vesuvio and it’s sort of like a haven for people of colour who are trying to survive in London.
Nia, a Bengali girl who’s also half Welsh and passes as white, sometimes even being mistaken as Italian, is a wonderfully written character. Despite being white-passing, Nia’s life hasn’t been full of sunshine and flowers. Her mother’s mental health keeps deteriorating and the alcoholism doesn’t help her mother either, Nia finally leaves her behind and tries for Uni but that fails too. So she moves to London. She has never been connected to her father’s culture and values because he just wasn’t in the picture. In London, she meets Tuli, a Tamil guy who owns Pizzeria Vesuvio. Nia can see that almost everyone, including herself, has fallen for Tuli in some way or the other. Nia can’t quite digest this either, that Tuli is this all-good person who’s taking in strays like it’s going out of business. Her internal struggles really play well in this book.
Then comes Shan, a guy who left behind a family in Sri Lanka. A guy who realises that the company that arranged for him to come to London was very much a con and that, it is still a better life than the one he left behind in his home country. Initially, he was hopeful that he would be joined by his wife and child soon but as the realisation of the con comes, that hope is gone. It’s hard making it in London and the pay is barely enough to clear his debts and send anything home. He is clearly struggling a lot and in comes Tuli, who lends a helping hand and for Shan, this is a heavenly intervention. A saint come to save him. He misses his family like he would miss his arm but he’s also aware that they can’t really join him while he’s not stable yet. That guilt wrecks him regularly.
The book is set up in Nia’s and Shan’s povs and Nia’s POV reads like a look at the past and like her, Nia’s story is all about reflection about her past and how she tends to only look at the things that have happened and how she sometimes can’t get out of it where Shan’s story speaks of a struggle of a daily kind. The kind of grief and stress that builds up daily without let up. It was very well done but I do wish that it wasn’t in the third person? Yes, it is one of those rare times that I think first person might have worked better.
Apart from this one I really don’t have too many complaints. The way Nia comes to an understanding about the racism and how immigrants face such hardships in life on a daily basis if they are not legal and what Shan went through back in Sri Lanka and how it all really makes lives so very hard for the illegal immigrants. Then there’s Shan, who’s left behind essentially his whole life for a chance at a better life and then, to realise that his opportunity wasn’t such a great opportunity after all. The guilt of it and the stress of having to deal with it is shown so wonderfully.
The major takeaway from this one is Lalwani’s writing of Nia, Shan and Tuli. While everything is happening in the pizzeria and those scenes that happen on the roads and how it all ties into the community and creates such a great picture. Just a great look into the community that might not get a lot of light shed on. There’s this sense of fear that you start to have when the government department people come and try to find and take in ‘illegal immigrants’ and yes, it sounds just as horrifying as it was to read it. A story of loneliness and a whole new outlook into the immigrants of London, how white passing people can still be very much ignorant of what goes on in the world. It was just so much to experience and I very much enjoyed it.