Anisa Ellahi dreams of being a translator of ‘great works of literature’, but instead mostly spends her days subtitling Bollywood movies, living off her parents’ generous allowance, and discussing the ‘underside of life’ with her best friend, Naima. Anisa’s mediocre white boyfriend, Adam, only adds to her growing sense of inadequacy with his savant-level aptitude for languages, successfully leveraging his expansive knowledge into an enviable career. But when Adam learns to speak Urdu with native fluency practically overnight, Anisa forces him to reveal his secret.
Adam begrudgingly tells Anisa about the Centre, an elite, invite-only programme that guarantees near-instant fluency in any language. Sceptical but intrigued, Anisa enrolls—stripped of her belongings and contact with the outside world—and emerges ten days later fluent in German. As Anisa enmeshes herself further within the Centre, seduced by all it’s made possible, she soon realises the true cost of its services.
The Centre is a book with an incredibly intriguing premise: a secretive institution known as ‘the Centre’ where residents can master a language in a mere two weeks. As a professional translator named Anisa, this concept opens up thrilling possibilities, prompting her to enroll. However, as the narrative unfolds, it becomes evident that there is an underlying darkness/ weirdness surrounding this revolutionary programme…
Personally, I found this book to be immensely engaging and addictive—I couldn’t put it down! The plot is fairly simple but has plenty of intrigue and mystery in it, which the author balances really well. What truly captivated me, though, were the relationships between the characters I often found myself more engrossed in how the characters interacted with each other than in uncovering the actual secret of the Centre!
I found this novel very readable – though it does get quite weird and dark at times, which was a bonus for me! – and there’s plenty of humour in there too, making this a recommended read.
My rating: 4/5
Many thanks to the publisher, Picador, for providing a copy of this book on which I chose to write an honest review.