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Burrow

Written by n/a for The Leeds Guide on no date provided

When Tapan Ali receives a telegram from his native Bangladesh informing him of the passing of his grandfather, who had funded his studies in England, he is resigned to returning to his homeland. He is offered an unexpected reprieve, however, by fellow student Adela, a white middle-class English girl, whose 'passion in life was betrayal': by marrying Tapan she could betray 'her family, her class, her race, her nation', while Tapan could remain in his newly beloved England. This arrangement works until the Home Office receives an anonymous phone call informing them that the marriage has collapsed and was, in any case, a sham. By this point, Tapan has truly fallen in love, with spirited young Bangladeshi Nilufar, and makes the decision to become an illegal immigrant, leaving behind the England of 'potatoes and kippers' and disappearing into a hidden, underground nation he never dreamed existed.

Inhabiting the same territory as his previous The Mapmarkers of Spitalfields, Manzu Islam’s Burrow centres around the Bangladeshi communities of Brick Lane in the late 70s where an atmosphere of extreme racial tensions pervades -- 'Not a day went by without some Bangladeshis being knifed in the streets'. Islam is a clever writer, who resolutely refuses to see the world in black and white. Where Tapan Ali could have been a refugee from a war-torn or famine-ravaged country, he is in fact a young man who merely wants to better himself, and while it would have been easy to portray the immigration officials as heavy-handed bullies, nothing unfair is ever suggested about their treatment of Tapan’s case. Preaching is, thankfully, not Islam's style and so the story is the thing, and in that regard, Burrow works on almost every level. A very worthwhile and engaging read.

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