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Gabriel's Gift: Hanif Kureishi
India Today May 2001


In 1986, Jonathan Cape published a stupendous book titled Gabriel's Lament by Paul Bailey. And, what was Kureishi going to offer in comparison, I wondered…

At first, the book stumbles along; and you begin to wonder if this to be a combo of Adrian Mole and Harry Potter, what with teen-angst, confused parents, magical gifts and the guiding spirit of a twin thrown in for good measure.

But by Chapter Two, you are willing to forgive Kureishi just about anything, including the fact that he has yet to come up with a screenplay to match the sheer poetry of My Beautiful Laundrette.

The book and its characters pick themselves from the floor and stride ahead. Gabriel's mother Christine finds a job as a waitress. Gabriel's father Rex living in squalor with only the memories of his past as a bass guitarist in a paisley glitter suit and silver shoes with hearts receives a phone call from an old friend Lester Jones - now a pop icon with an island, groupies and hair dyed ruby red. Rex takes Gabriel along for the meeting and Lester gifts a drawing to Gabriel. Rex wants the drawing to sell to Speedy, owner of a restaurant with a whole wall of rock memorabilia. And Christine wants to keep it as a future investment and perhaps as negotiation tool for a job in Splitz. Gabriel who has a gift for copying makes two copies to give to his parents and keeps the original for himself. Thereafter Gabriel takes control of his parents lives and his; helping his father find a new career as a 'cool dude' music teacher and weeding out his mother's unsuitable boy friends and finally engineering their getting back together. Perhaps this is Gabriel's gift - to make the best of what is available and it is with this gift that Kureishi redeems the book from being a sweet little but very ordinary story to a truly magnificent one that is tender, funny and wry.

Gabriel's Gift is a book that I would recommend parents buy their grown-up children. So that if the time ever comes, their children will take a cue from Gabriel and show them the same unconditional love and sensitivity when it comes to forgiving their parents trespasses.

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