Set in post-war India, this incredibly warm and realistic middle-grade tale is about a young boy called Bilal.
He lives in a small market town – at the time when sectarian violence is erupting between Muslims, Sikhs and Christians – and is nursing his sick father (or “Bapuji”) who is dying from cancer.
Irfan Master’s story is beautifully accessible, a real page-turner and addresses some of the really horrific realities of what people experienced during post-Colonial rule and the subsequent partitioning of India. People’s lives and families were torn apart, and we feel this tension through A Beautiful Lie as background noise that – every now and then – invades the main narrative of the book.
And the main narrative is a simple one: Bilal is determined that his dying father will not know the terrible truth about his beloved India being broken into pieces. He wants his father to die believing everything is still alright. And the boy goes out of his way to recruit half the town (and his close set of friends) to join him in this both sad and happy charade.
There are fun, action-packed moments as well as really touching ones between Bilal and his father…but be warned, there are also some really quite nasty ones too. A Beautiful Lie is most definitely upper middle-grade because some of the racist violence it addresses can be almost adult in theme. However, it is never full-on disturbing, it’s just not shy at telling it like it was.