Gabriel Packard is a major new literary talent, and his debut novel The Painted Ocean is a fearless tour de force. It is a rare achievement - an emotionally rich work of literature, delivered in the form of a gripping, page-turning story. The depiction of a British Indian childhood and adolescence is utterly compelling, as is the allegorical exploration of the human condition.
Gabriel Packard's debut is unlike any other. Told by the ill-fated but indomitable Shruti, whose lively, contemporary voice masks great pain, the novel ranges from her bitter childhood in southern England to her extraordinary imprisonment on a desert island in the Indian Ocean. Shruti's experience hovers somewhere between the dark world we know, and an imaginary darker still. The Painted Ocean is an unsettling and unforgettable book.
Dreamlike in its intensity, epic in its scope, The Painted Ocean is a powerful fiction debut. Gabriel Packard has a style that is propulsive, unforgettable and utterly unique.
Gabriel Packard has written the sort of book publishers, readers, the whole world is hungry for: a thrilling and literate debut, a smart page-turner that takes your emotions and wraps them around its brutal, quick fist. I sat to read the first page of this novel and blew the rest of my weekend finishing the whole blessed thing.
The Painted Ocean has the heart and intelligence and verbal brilliance of Charles Dickens, and a young narrator who is as lively, smart, and full of feeling as, say, Huck Finn. Gabriel Packard's debut novel, which recounts the painful coming of age of a British-born first-generation-immigrant girl from India, during the '90s, has the potential to be one of those books that everybody wants to read - the humanity of the main character under extreme duress, and the marvelous idiom in which she speaks, are both hauntingly compelling. As with Dickens and Twain, the voice that Packard has created is complex, morally challenging, and a true literary achievement.
This debut novel ... grabs you by the throat and holds on tight
One impressive debut. Reminiscent of Dickens in its dramatic scope and descriptive passion, with obvious (favourable) comparisons to Monica Ali's Brick Lane, The Painted Ocean is about surviving as an Indian migrant in England ... Shruti's subsequent adventures stray onto Lord of the Flies turf. The writing is rich and immediate, compelling in its intensity. The pages seem to turn themselves.
This ambitious debut novel has an unforgettable narrator in Shruti