Virginia Barton

Britain through Asian eyes

Catholic Herald, 15 February 1991         


Review: The Golden Thread by Lerbanoo Gifford (Batsford, £7.99)


By a quirk of fate I had just closed the last page of Farewell the Trumpets (Penguin, £5.99), Jan Morris’s masterly survey of the British Empire, when The Golden Thread arrived for review.

!B-pKV-wEWk~$(KGrHqEOKpoEy+jC0u1uBM9S,j7ckw~~_35The sub-title of Ms. Gifford’s book, “Asian Experiences of Post-Raj Britain”, suggested it might be a sort of postscript to the great Pax Brittanica trilogy. The Golden Thread is intended to give the reader an idea of what an Asian living in Britain today feels and hopes for.

Considerable research has gone into the book and literally dozens of interviews were conducted among the Asian community. The information gathered is varied (habits, taboos, beliefs, cultural idiosyncrasies) and fascinating. But there is far too much of it, and the tangle of personalities who divulged all these interesting facts and fancies leave the reader feeling he juggles with 46 oranges.

Ms. Gifford has a distinctive voice couched in a florid style. But she is well qualified to reveal the fears and aspirations of her Asian sisters (one or two token men are included) since she is co-chair of the Warwick University Centre for Research in Asian Migration. She also works for, and contributes to, several organisations involved in community relations.

This is, apparently, the first book to describe Britain and the British through Asian eyes. I feel Ms. Gifford would have been well advised to keep her eyes down and recount her own story without trying to tell so many others in the same volume.


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