Monday, 13 December 2010

Coconut Unlimited

Title: Coconut Unlimited

Author: Nikesh Shukla

Number of pages: 200

Started: 10 December 2010

Finished: 13 December 2010

Opening words:

The day starts quiet. The day starts slow.

I can see today’s outfit, lovingly laid out for me by Alice on the small white children’s chair next to the bed. I’m awake ten minutes before the alarm goes off. I stare at the clock counting towards 9a.m. Alice’s warmth had left the sheets and the flat is too quiet for her usual Saturday morning thumping around. She’s left for her mother’s, while I’m left in bed.

Plot summary:

It's Harrow in the 1990s, and Amit, Anand and Nishant are stuck. Their peers think they're a bunch of try-hard darkies, acting street and pretending to be cool, while their community thinks they're rich toffs, a long way from the 'real' Asians in Southall. So, to keep it real, they form legendary hip-hop band 'Coconut Unlimited'. Pity they can't rap...

From struggling to find records in the suburbs and rehearsing on rubbish equipment, to evading the clutches of disapproving parents and real life drug-dealing gangsters, Coconut Unlimited documents every teenage boy's dream and the motivations behind it: being in a band to look pretty cool - oh, and to get girls...

What I thought:

I can’t really say that a book about an Asian teenager who is into hip hop is ever likely to be my first choice of reading material. But this book was more readable than it might at first sound. Whilst I was not very inspired by the hip hop lyrics in the book and am unlikely to be seeking it out as a new musical genre to pursue, the book can equally be read as being a fairly light hearted book about a teenage boy trying to find his way n the world, and a fairly racist world at that.

I don’t think the book quite worked for me and it did have the “first novel” feel to it, but that might in part be because I am not Asian, a teenager or into hip hop. The book had a certain nostalgic feel to it, but it wasn’t looking back to a time that I could particularly relate to even though I was probably a teenager about the same sort of time.

This kind of book is part of the beauty of reading things like the Costa shortlist. This is certainly not my type of book, but it was worth reading if only to read something very different to what I would normally choose – and is definitely better than some other books I have read this year that have made me want to chew my own arm off. What more recommendation could you need?

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