I love Jasbinder Bilan's children's books. From 'Asha and the Spirit Bird' to 'Tamarind and the Star of Ishta' to this, her third book, she writes a kind of mesmerising 'mythical realism', a new genre proposed by author Darren Simpson. Indian mythology is beautifully woven with the everyday like sumptuous, magical tapestries.
My review of 'Asha and the Spirit Bird' here.
My review of 'Tamarind and the Star of Ishta' here.
In 'Aarti and the Blue Gods' Bilan has possibly written her best yet, infusing the mythology of Krishna with Scottish druidism in a cosmic, haunting tale that surprises and twists like the aurora borealis in a clear blue sky.
Aarti has spent her life on a remote Scottish island with her volatile and controlling Aunt. She knows nothing of her parents and why she's even there. The only comfort she gets is from a mysterious fox and from her special book about Indian myths. In a twist of fate, Aarti is left to discover the truth about herself and the island. So when a boy washes up on the shore, Aarti has help to remember her past and find a way to get home.
I was born and grew up in Scotland. I also spent months travelling in India and have a real affinity for Indian mythology and culture so I find 'Aarti and the Blue Gods' really chimes with my imagination. I actually got goosebumps when Aarti reads about Krishna, her blue god. Somehow Bilan has this incredible way of making the mythical, the spiritual, the magical (however you want to call it) soar and sparkle from the ordinary, off the page with pure delight. I was riveted by Aarti's desire to learn about herself and her past, and mysteries build and weave with allusions to both Indian and Scottish blue gods. There are shocking, breathtaking moments and twists that surprise - nothing ever is as it seems. This a story about identity, memory and belonging when a mythic imagination is your only solace.
I've said this before, but Jasbinder Bilan's children's books need to be celebrated and cherished. East meets West. Reality meets myth. Indian mythology meets British history. Her books are utterly unique and are absolute must-reads. Brilliant!