Thursday, 12 November 2015

If You Don't Know Me By Now - Satnam Sanghara

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A great memoir that is brutally honest and entertaining.

Looking at the jacket cover, I thought it was some whining Indian ranting about grappling with the "Indianness and the Britishness". This was that and much more.

I found it to be a great read, a brutal account (I wonder what the family had to say) and an entertaining style.

Right from the first page, the author is honest about what he is about to do. He introduces the reader to the family and but what happens next is the author confronting his family about his need to branch out. But the book also operates on various levels and this is what adds value to it.


When the author is is in his 20s, he discovers that his sister and his father are suffering from schizoprenia. What happens then is a journey of finding out how the family particularly his mother, who is caught in the vortex, dealt with it. The story also examines Sanghara's relationship with his mother, how his need for her approval thwarts his relationships.

What works:

  • The style is great and the content is packaged so well.
  • It works on many levels. It talks about being a Sikh in the 1970s, the duality of living in a traditional household while embracing a modern lifestyle.On the other hand, it is deeply personal about a man in his 20s unearthing deep family secrets and trying to come to terms with it.
  • The narrative is extremely engaging. It is bold - after all sharing personal life in a book is not easy. It is brutal - the author is honest and does not mince words. It is also entertaining - the drama of how his mum accepts the letter and what she has to say about it is very well done.

What doesn't:

  • The book works completely. However, as is the case in such accounts, you often wonder how much of it is staged. At least with fiction you never worry about such things. But when it comes dressed as a memoir, it leaves one speculating, much of it is packaged.
  • However, the book is great. This is clearly one of the best non fiction books I have read this year. Having read the author's second book as well, I have bookmarked him and will be looking out for the his later works too.

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