I haven’t read a lot of YA books that centre on older characters or real-life colonised settings, so City of Ghosts by Bali Rai was refreshing. The novel focuses on the struggles of Indians fighting against British rule after WWI. War veteran Bissen Singh, the young orphan Gurdial barred from the love of his life Sohni due to class, and his friend Jeevan are involved and face obstacles – they’re also literally haunted by demons of the past. The fight reaches a bloody climax, deeply impacting Bissen, Gurdial and Jeevan’s lives.
City of Ghosts leaves you spellbound. The language is so rich, you can taste it. It’s also mimics the intensity of the plot, hooking you in. Adding supernatural elements makes the story a sort of fantasy but it helps to visualise the ordeal and what the characters are going through without being too graphic yet not glossing over racism, and the trauma and violence resulted from the struggle against colonisation in India.
I didn’t mind the inaccuracies. If anything, the book motivates me to read about the events, and find more post-colonial books and books on Indian soldiers and other non-western countries during WWI and WWII.
The female characters are interesting even though they’re mainly confined to their homes. They’re diverse, personality and class-wise. A couple are ghosts and contribute to the fight and protecting the living especially Gurdial and Sohni. I wish the women in this book were more active though – I’m thinking of the Indian suffragettes who were vocal during the 1910s-20s.
City of Ghosts is a good read and a very refreshing one. I recommend it 🙂