The Painted Ocean: Reviews 

Colum McCann, National Book Award winner, New York Times best seller

"Gabriel Packard is a major new literary talent, and his debut novel The Painted Ocean is a fearless tour de force. It is a rare  achievement—an emotionally rich work of literature, delivered in the form of a gripping, page-turning story. The depiction of a British Indian childhood and adolescence is utterly compelling, as is the allegorical exploration of the human condition."

The Sydney Morning Herald

"Gabriel Packard's raw debut grips your attention." "This debut novel... grabs you by the throat and holds on tight."

ABC Radio

"Gabriel Packard's novel, The Painted Ocean, is an assured debut, written in the voice of a young British Asian woman, Shruti. The novel works as a gripping thriller, but Shruti's experience of exploitation and enslavement is also an allegory of a globalised world where forced labour is an all too common reality." "It is a literary page-turner." "In Gabriel Packard's debut novel, Lord of the Flies gets a fierce post-colonial, globalised twist." "It's a literary thriller partially set on an isolated island in the Indian Ocean, and it focuses on the story of Shruti. The story is shadowed by themes of slavery and forced migration. "

Listen to an interview with Gabriel Packard on ABC Radio's "Books and Arts". [Listen on]

The Sunday Star-Times

"Book clubs will be in meltdown over this first novel by UK author and creative writing lecturer Gabriel Packard... Undoubtedly, there will be fireworks. Brick Lane meets Lord of the Flies is one description, but you can also throw in a bit of The Island, only with fewer people. At the heart of the book there's a tale of childhood abandonment, bullying and a need to be loved..." "[Gabriel Packard is] an author who writes very well..."


Darin Strauss, National Book Critics Circle Award winner, New York Times best seller

"Gabriel Packard has written the sort of book publishers, readers, the whole world is hungry for: a thrilling and literate debut, a smart page-turner that takes your emotions and wraps them around its brutal, quick fist."

Claire Messud, Addison Metcalf Award winnerNew York Times best seller

"Gabriel Packard’s debut is unlike any other. Told by the ill-fated but indomitable Shruti, whose lively, contemporary voice masks great pain, the novel ranges from her bitter childhood in southern England to her extraordinary imprisonment on a desert island in the Indian Ocean. Shruti’s experience hovers somewhere between the dark world we know, and an imaginary darker still. The Painted Ocean is an unsettling and unforgettable book."

Saïd Sayrafiezadeh, Whiting Writers Award winner, The New Yorker contributing writer

"Dreamlike in its intensity, epic in its scope, The Painted Ocean is a powerful fiction debut. Gabriel Packard has a style that is propulsive, unforgettable and utterly unique." 

Tom Sleigh, John Updike Award winner, Shelley Prize winner, Kingsley Tufts Award winner

"The Painted Ocean has the heart and intelligence and verbal brilliance of Charles Dickens, and a young narrator who is as lively, smart, and full of feeling as, say, Huck Finn. Gabriel Packard’s debut novel, which recounts the painful coming of age of a British-born first-generation-immigrant girl from India, during the ’90s, has the potential to be one of those books that everybody wants to read—the humanity of the main character under extreme duress, and the marvelous idiom in which she speaks, are both hauntingly compelling. As with Dickens and Twain, the voice that Packard has created is complex, morally challenging, and a true literary achievement."

W.H. Smith "Fresh Talent Series" selection

The Painted Ocean by Gabriel Packard selected for the W.H. Smith "Fresh Talent Series," Autumn 2016. 

The Bookseller

"A W.H.S. spokesperson said: '[...]Offering fresh voices, new characters and intriguing perspectives on life, there’s nothing quite like taking a chance on an emerging author and falling head first into their world.'"

The National

"Top Pick Book" 

"Shruti has been abandoned by her father, is being bullied at school, while her mother faces pressure to return to India to get married. But Shruti becomes obsessed with a  new arrival at her school and when they both return to India on holiday, that obsession has deadly consequences." [Arts & Life]

Red Magazine, Hearst Media

A Red Magazine "Best Book."

"This ambitious debut novel has an unforgettable narrator in Shruti, who we first meet as an eleven year old from a broken home in suburban England terrified that her mother will go back to India to remarry. We follow Shruti through University and her obsessive friendship with the brutish Meena to an ill-fated trip to India that leaves the two girls trapped on a desert island in the Indian Ocean."


The Canberra Times

"Shruti's life is terrifying, the chasm between her and her only significant adult so big, and her life so hidden and lost. The one saving grace, that she has her mother to herself, changes when her uncle calls from India with a marriage proposal." "Shruti and Meena end up on an island in India, and suddenly we're in inescapable Lord of the Flies territory"

The Age 

"Packard... has worked as a researcher for E.L. Doctorow, Peter Carey and Jonathan Franzen. This novel feels like his aha moment of "I can do it too". And he can." {Arts & Entertainment]

The Saturday Paper

"Shruti is 11 years old when her father walks out on the family, never to return. She is left behind with a mother who speaks no English, in a town where she is the only South Asian girl at school. Her mother works from home, making girls’ dresses for 35 pence each and fretfully ignoring the mounting pile of bills in the hall."

"It is South East England; the cusp of the ’90s. The whole country feels like a song by The Smiths. It is a set-up of Dickens-level..."

"Gabriel Packard [has] a gift for driving narrative forward... The narrative, which has so far moved at a decent clip, flips the nitro switch."


An "Amazon Rising Star" and "Best Debut" book

The Daily Review

"Thoroughly engaging, funny and moving"

The Australian Way Magazine

"The novel from the respected Hunter College (New York) associate director of creative writing -- who has done research for Jonathan Franzen and Peter Carey -- is one impressive debut. Reminiscent of Dickens in its dramatic scope and descriptive passion, with obvious (favourable) comparisons to Monica Ali's Brick Lane, The Painted Ocean is about surviving as an Indian migrant in England... Shruti's subsequent adventures stray onto Lord of the Flies turf. The writing is rich and immediate, compelling in its intensity. The pages seem to turn themselves." [IQ]


Audio links

ABC Radio interview: listen on iTunesAudio BoomPlayer.fmPodtail


Bookstores, bloggers, websites and other miscellaneous items

Readings, Independent bookstore chain

"I finished an advanced copy of this March release a couple of weeks ago and was so affected by it that I only now feel able to coherently discuss it.

"Set in suburban England, this book follows 11-year-old Shruti. She’s worried about the the possibility of being separated from her mother – who’s under pressure to remarry and return to India without her daughter. Shruti then meets school newcomer Meena who becomes a strong influence upon the former’s future decisions and actions.

"From discussions I have read thus far there seems to be a strong division of opinion regarding this book (in my view making it an excellent choice for book groups). The main point of contention seems to be the second half of the book and whether it should be taken literally or metaphorically. My verdict? I was somewhere in between with my interpretation and certainly at times questioned the dramatic shift in plot. However, I was so mesmerised while reading this novel and couldn’t stop thinking about it for weeks afterwards that I ultimately have to acknowledge it as a significant and powerful reading experience."

Better Read Than Dead, Bookstore

Book of the Month

"This is a challenging read, in a great way. The challenge lies in the riveting way this novel was executed... Although I’ve read several books since finishing The Painted Ocean, my thoughts keep returning to it... a literary feat that is extremely intense and will definitely challenge your reading sensibility."


External The Painted Ocean pages 

Hachette International & Hachette UK

Little, Brown 

Little, Brown, Spring Catalog 

Little, Brown design


Peters, Fraser and Dunlop

Google Plus


Poets & Writers magazineThe Painted Ocean reading at Turnstile Reading Series


The Map Stories

The Universe in Words