Genie and Paul is the debut novel from Natasha Soobramanien.
Taking the French eighteenth century classic Paul et Virginie by Bernardin de Saint-Pierre as inpsiration, the author has crafted a story about love of people and of places. It is May 2003, and a body is washed up on a beach on Rodrigues, the sister island of Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean. Six weeks earlier, in March 2003, a tropical cyclone hit Rodrigues and wrought destruction. On the same night in London, 26-year-old Genie Lallan wakes up in hospital, having collapsed in a nightclub with her brother Paul - who has now vanished.
Through the numerous glimpses into their pasts as the story unfolds, we discover that Genie and Paul moved to Britain from Mauritius, and whilst Genie takes to her new home Paul aches to be back in Mauritius. The narrative is composed of three sections, relating first to Genie, then Paul, and finally them both. Within these sections, the stories from the present and the past - which recall various episodes in the lives of the two siblings - build to give the reader a fascinating, layered picture of them both. Often a character is asked by another to tell them their story, and I found this storytelling aspect a wonderful and particularly appealing element of this novel.
Genie and Paul reads like a fresh, original story of love, of shared memories and places that always feel like home to us. Soobramanien offers us a novel where the sense and evocation of place is key, and she writes with great insight as to how our bonds with those we are closest to shape our lives.