The In-Between World of Vikram Lall

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The In-Between World of Vikram Lall
First edition
Author M. G. Vassanji
Country Canada
Language English
Genre Historical Fiction
Publisher Doubleday Canada
Publication date
11 October 2003
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 405
ISBN 0-385-65990-3

The In-Between World of Vikram Lall is a novel by M. G. Vassanji, published in 2003 by Doubleday Canada. The novel won the Scotiabank Giller Prize that year and narrates a story of Vikram Lall in the colonial and post-colonial Kenya. The title for the novel also inspired the title for Elizabeth Nunez's novel Anna In-Between, published in 2009.


Vikram Lall is an adult living in exile in Canada and the novel plots him contemplating over his life as a teenager of Indian origin living in Kenya in the 1950s. His grandfather was brought to Africa from Northwest India as a labourer and his father Ashok was a member of the Asian Home Guard troops that works for the British. He has a younger sister Deepa. The story revolves around Vikram, Deepa, Njoroge and two more British siblings Bill and Ann; who are all friends growing up in Nakuru during the colonial rule. Njoroge belongs to a Kikuyu farming labourer family. The Mau Mau Uprising gains momentum and Bill and Ann's British parents are killed in it. Later Njoroge and Deepa fall in love which is detested by Deepa's mother Sheila. Njoroge's grandfather Mwangi is a staunch supporter of Mau Mau and Vikram's uncle Mahesh also sides him. Mwangi is killed by British and Mahesh gets deported to India. Deepa is forced to marry an Indian leaving her love aside, Njoroge joins the government and Vikram becomes a middleman taking bribes for fixing things and changing currencies. Njoroge's idealistis views eventually get him murdered. Vikram gets involved in political turbulences and is labelled as "one of Africa's most corrupt men" after which he lives an isolated life in Canada.[1]


The novel is fifth by Vassanji and was published on 11 October 2003 by Doubleday Canada.[2] It is divided into four parts spread over four decades and begins with Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. Vassanji who was born in Kenya dedicated the novel as a tribute to East Africa's Indian population and their contributions to the railroad and the politics of Kenya.[3] In 2016, Vassanji went on a tour organized by Storymoja Festival in Kenya and Nairobi, on which the novel's plot is based on. Vassanji took part in book signing and discussions with teachers and students.[4] The novel was later published in the digital form as an e-book.[5]

Review and reception[edit]

Author Elizabeth Nunez, who grew up in Trinidad and later moved to America noted on how she relates with the story of being straddled in the two different worlds. She appreciates the novel for capturing the essence of a life in a post-colonial country. She later wrote a novel Anna In-Between (2010, ISBN 978-1-936070-69-5) about a character struggling in two identities and said that "[she] just stole Vassanji's line, 'in-between'".[6] Novelist Sandra Hunter writing for The Guardian included the book in top 10 list revolving around Indian families.[7] Helon Habila of The Guardian notes that the novel's first part is slow in pace but it is about political and personal survival and is "a good example of how the post-colonial novel should be written, dispassionately, avoiding the easy pitfalls of nostalgia and essentialism".[8] An American weekly, Publishers Weekly, in their review mentions that Vassanji has explored "a conflict of epic proportions from the perspective of a man trapped in 'the perilous in-between'".[5] The New Yorker reviews the novel as "tautly written" and mentions that the narrative built for the lead characters seems "forced". It also notes that "the book admirably captures the tenor of the postcolonial period".[9] Tara Sehgal of India Today mentions that "Though issues of race, class, identity and belonging loom large and politics permeates every page, [the novel] is also simply a "life and times" story of Vic [aka Vikram]".[10]


The novel was shortlisted for the 2003 Scotiabank Giller Prize eventually winning against Oryx and Crake (by Margaret Atwood), The Island Walkers (by John Bemrose), Kilter: 55 Fictions (by John Gould), and The Way the Crow Flies (by Ann-Marie MacDonald). The awards were adjudged by Canadian jurist Rosalie Abella, critic and writer David Staines, and author and professor Rudy Wiebe.[11] Vassanji had earlier won the inaugural award in 1994 for his novel The Book of Secrets.[11]


  1. ^ Vassanji, M. G. (24 February 2009). The In-Between World of Vikram Lall. Doubleday Canada. ISBN 978-0-307-37192-8. Retrieved 20 March 2017. 
  2. ^ "Reviews: The In-Between World of Vikram Lall". Quills and Quire. Retrieved 14 March 2017. 
  3. ^ "The In-Between World of Vikram Lall". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 14 March 2017. 
  4. ^ "When Storymoja Festival savoured 'The In-Between World of Vikram Lall'". Daily Nation. 14 October 2016. Retrieved 17 March 2017. 
  5. ^ a b "Review: The In-Between World of Vikram Lall". Publishers Weekly. 26 July 2004. Retrieved 14 March 2017. 
  6. ^ "This Weekend, Navigate The Changing World Of 'Vikram Lall'". National Public Radio. 24 May 2015. Retrieved 17 March 2017. 
  7. ^ Hunter, Sandra (25 June 2014). "Top 10 books about Indian families". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 March 2017. 
  8. ^ Habila, Helon (18 September 2004). "Memories of Mau Mau". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 March 2017. 
  9. ^ "Books briefly Noted: The In-Between World of Vikram Lall". The New Yorker. 25 October 2004. Retrieved 14 March 2017. 
  10. ^ Sahgal, Tara (1 November 2004). "The nowhere man Vassanji returns". Indian Today. Retrieved 14 March 2017. 
  11. ^ a b "Scotiabank Giller Prize: past winners and jury". Scotiabank Giller Prize. Retrieved 14 March 2017.