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The Lost Homestead Reviews

The Lost Homestead by Marina Wheeler

The Lost Homestead: My Mother, Partition and the Punjab

Marina Wheeler

3.14 out of 5

4 reviews

Imprint: Hodder & Stoughton
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication date: 12 Nov 2020
ISBN: 9781473677746

Through her mother's memories, accounts from her Indian family and her own research in both India and Pakistan, constitutional and human rights lawyer, Marina Wheeler, explores how the peoples of these new nations struggled to recover and rebuild their lives.

3 stars out of 5
9 Jan 2021

"Wheeler uses her cross-examination skills to draw a fascinating tale out of her mother in a book that's part travelogue, part biography"

Wheeler eventually finds a register that works, both for the material and as a good literary approximation of what must be her spoken voice. The forced lyricism of the early chapters (“green as far as the eye can see: field after field of wheat”) gives way to something more elegant. One Pakistan academic she meets informs her that her “line of enquiry... is a feminist one. It is odd to us, for whom the patriarchal line is more important.” She takes his remark to mean “Why such a fuss over your mother?” Well, she replies, her mother, married to a much-lauded broadcaster, spent much of her life in the shadows. Do they not agree “that she has a story worth telling?” The question comes at a point in the story when it’s more than clear that the answer is yes.


3 stars out of 5

"both a deeply personal story of identity and a highly relatable journey for many in the diaspora"

Nevertheless, it makes for a very readable tome in the ever-growing diaspora canon. If it feels diffuse at times, it is made up for with anecdotes, interviews, and in the profusion of historical details. As Wheeler notes in the introduction, the book is “about memory and identity, about what we have, what we lose and what we rebuild.” More than 70 years since the republic’s tryst with destiny, it can only be a good thing that these matters are increasingly discussed.

4 stars out of 5
Sonia Purnell
12 Nov 2020

"Marina Wheeler tells the story of her much-loved Sikh-born mother and the loss of her home in the dislocation and violence that marked the birth of Pakistan, in spare, lyrical prose"

‘Ketchupgate’ was forever seen within the family as Dip finally seeking a voice independent of her marriage to a large personality to whom she always took second place. This melancholic book, although a little contrived at times, seeks to do the same for her daughter. ‘I was indeed on a journey,’ as Wheeler remarks, ‘about what we have, what we lose and what we rebuild.’  

3 stars out of 5
6 Nov 2020

"The harrowing events of 1947 come to life in this personal history"

The Lost Homestead is a response to this diasporic predicament. Wheeler too had picked up a vague chronology, but didn’t know the story of her own family. Her mother, Dip — a member of the dwindling generation of Indians who lived through partition — was always reticent about the past. But Wheeler sought to document it before it was too late. Now, by narrating partition with a focus on her mother’s family, the Singhs, she has made the abstractions of history suddenly more real: they are given names, faces and feelings.