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Sathnam Sanghera

About The Author

Sathnam SangheraSathnam Sanghera was born to Punjabi parents in the West Midlands in 1976, attended Wolverhampton Grammar School and graduated from Christ's College, Cambridge with a first class degree in English Language and Literature in 1998. His first book, The Boy with the Topknot: A Memoir of Love, Secrets and Lies in Wolverhampton, was shortlisted for the 2008 Costa Biography Award and the 2009 PEN / Ackerley Prize and named 2009 Mind Book of the Year. Before becoming a writer Sathnam did various jobs, including working at a burger chain, a hospital laundry, a market research firm, a sewing factory and at a literacy project in New York. Now an award-winning journalist, he has been a columnist and feature writer at The Times since 2007 and lives in London.

Marriage MaterialMarriage Material, his first novel, takes its inspiration from Arnold Bennett's classic novel The Old Wives Tale to tell with great humour and tenderness, and also anger, the story of three generations of a Punjabi Sikh family through the prism of a Wolverhampton corner shop set against a broader political backdrop, which traces a line from Enoch Powell's infamous1968 'rivers of blood' speech to the 2011 riots.

Arjan Banga has a successful career and a white girlfriend in London. But when his father dies unexpectedly, he is obliged to return to the Black Country to help his mother, who insists on keeping the family corner shop open. Once there, he uncovers painful truths about his own life and the history of his broken family.

Read the Prologue, 'Asian Trader', here and see below for ten of the books Sathnam loves, including, of course, Arnold Bennett's The Old Wives Tale.

 

 

Author photograph courtesy of John Angerson

 

Author Picks

This is How You Lose Her
(Paperback)
Junot Diaz
 
I’ve been obsessed with Junot Diaz ever since I picked up The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I think he is the most original voice to have appeared in the last decade. As it happens, I was initially wary of this collection of short stories just because it was so slim. It seemed cheeky to charge so much for so few words. But it totally blew my mind. Funny and moving and incredibly modern – the last story was so good that, as soon as I finished, I read it again.
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Beautiful Ruins
(Paperback)
Jess Walter
 
There’s a quote on the front of the paperback edition ascribed from my rave review of the book in The Times, describing it as 'very very funny'. And it is. But it also has brilliant dialogue: the last book I read with dialogue so crisp was David Nicholl’s One Day. And actually Beautiful Ruins is like One Day in other ways: it wears its cleverness and ingenuity very lightly and has a powerful emotional pull. My book of the year.
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Joy
(Paperback)
Jonathan Lee
 
I have always wondered what happened to those brilliant students at Oxbridge who joined corporate law firms. Joy provides the answer. The plot, revolving around an imminent suicide may sound grim, but it’s very funny and entertaining, and the structure is very clever. There are not enough books about corporate life, and this is one of the best.
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The Small Hours
(Paperback)
Susie Boyt
 
This book is only 200 pages long, and I read it all in one go on a transatlantic flight, but it felt like I had devoured 500 pages worth of material. The heroine, Harriet, is such a brilliantly drawn character, properly three dimensional, full of dark and shade and light and contradictions. I don’t know how Boyt did it.
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Stores - out of stock

A Fine Balance
(Paperback)
Rohinton Mistry
Masterpiece. But not to be read if you’re feeling vulnerable: the ending floored me for a fortnight.
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The Buddha of Suburbia
(Paperback)
Hanif Kureishi
Had to re-read this for work and was surprised by how fresh it still felt. It was the first book I came across that made me think that the British Asian experience was perhaps worth writing about, and it has dated well. Think Kureishi was about ten years ahead of everyone else when it came to the themes of multiculturalism and identity
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The Old Wives' Tale
(Paperback)
Arnold Bennett; John Wain; John Wain
 
Published in 1908, and about the lives of two sisters growing up in a drapery shop in the Potteries, this book provided part of the inspiration for my new novel. I loved it in large part because of the universality of Bennett’s themes: in particular, the generation gap; the clash between the provincial and the metropolitan and the threat small communities face from Industrialisation. But I was struck even more by the parallels between the world he describes and my own background as the child of Punjabi immigrants to the West Midlands. Life in the Potteries in Victorian times was hard and dangerous: just as life was for immigrants arriving to toil in Black Country factories in the 1950s and 1960s. Bennett’s characters were obsessed with the acquisition of money and social status, in the same way that Punjabi Sikh culture fetishizes wealth over education. Then there is the novel’s presiding concern with marriage. Surreally, 'Baines', with the vowel dropped, is even a common Sikh surname. I would love it if my homage inspired people to give Bennett a chance.
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Available Titles By This Author

Marriage Material
(Hardback)
Sathnam Sanghera
 
 
£14.99
 

Currently out of stock

The Boy with the Topknot: A Memoir of...
(Paperback)
Sathnam Sanghera
 
 
£9.99
 

Past Events for this Author

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