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Lorenzo DeStefano
Author
"HOUSE BOY"
"HOUSE BOY” is a contemporary thriller set in Southern India and in the polite suburb of Hendon, North London. At 321 Finchley Lane, ancient traditions take root and prosper in our so-called civilized society. The lives of a boy from rural India, Vijay Pallan, and an Indo-British woman and her son, Binda and Ravi Tagorstani, collide as if decreed by history. Through Vijay, we experience the shocking realities of modern slavery, the human spirit’s boundless capacity for pain, and the ultimate blessing of one young man’s redemption and survival.
Reviews
DeStefano’s novel about human trafficking and atrocities is a horrifying tale of cruelty in the name of caste, ranging from Southern India to suburban London. Vijay Pallan, a Dalit–or “untouchable”–boy from Tamil Nadu, a rural state in southern India, goes to Chennai searching for a job to earn money for his sisters’ dowry. In Chennai, he falls into the clutches of Santhana Gopalan who works for a dubious agency that “supplies” household staff to rich Indian families in Britain. Vijay is elated at the prospect of more prosperous times for him and his family but on reaching the household of Binda Tagorstani, he finds the conditions are inhumane and atrocious.

DeStefano exposes, with empathy and striking prose, the slavery, assault, and general horror visited upon the poor not just in India but persisting in western cities just out of sight. Still, readers familiar with Indian life and culture may find some details distracting, especially in the Tamil Nadu sequences. The title character is called Vijay Pallan, though it’s unlikely someone from the Dalit community would add their caste to their name for the simple reason that they don’t want to be discriminated against, and the portrayal of Vijay’s family and their poverty lacks dimension. Vijay’s desperation and fear, though, are persuasive, and the manner in which he’s seduced (“we feel an obligation to offer certain exceptional individuals like yourself the option of working abroad”) into leaving his country is chilling.

But once the narrative shifts to Britain, the novel stands on firmer–and more convincing– ground. DeStefano’s depiction of Vijay’s long hours of work, near-starvation, and humiliation at the hands of Binda and her son Ravi—as well as Vijay’s crime—starkly highlight the power dynamics between the oppressor and oppressed. In tense courtroom scenes the reader is treated to some scintillating dialogue.

Takeaway: Ranging from India to London, this saga of international human enslavement is an intense, revealing read.

Great for fans of: Brenda Barrett’s The Pull of Freedom, Ailish Sinclair’s Fireflies and Chocolate.

Production grades
Cover: B+
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A

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