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  • Published: 5 June 2014
  • ISBN: 9781448191772
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 240

A Bad Character

A stunning debut about Delhi, desire and how much we are prepared to risk for our freedomShortlisted for the 2015 Prix Médicis

Shortlisted for the 2015 Prix Médicis

My boyfriend died when I was twenty-one. His body was left lying broken in the highway out of Delhi while the sun rose in the desert to the east. I wasn’t there, I never saw it. But plenty of others saw, in the trucks that passed by without stopping, and from the roadside dhaba where he’d been drinking all night.Then they wrote about him in the paper. Twelve lines buried in the middle pages, one line standing out, the last one, in which a cop he’d never met said to the reporter, He was known to us, he was a bad character.

This is the story of Idha, a young woman who finds escape from the arranged marriage and security that her middle-class world has to offer through a chance encounter with a charismatic, dangerous young man. She is quickly exposed to the thrilling, often illicit pleasures that both the city, Delhi, and her body can hold. But as the affair continues, and her double life deepens, her lover’s increasingly unstable behaviour carries them past the point of no return, where grief, love and violence threaten to transform his madness into her own.

A novel about female desire, A Bad Character shows us a Delhi we have not seen in fiction before: a city awash with violence, rage and corruption.

  • Published: 5 June 2014
  • ISBN: 9781448191772
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 240

About the author

Deepti Kapoor

Deepti Kapoor was born in Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh, and grew up in Bombay, Bahrain and Dehradun. In 1997 she went to the University of Delhi to study journalism and later completed an MA in Social Psychology. She spent the next decade working for various publications, driving around the city, finding stories and learning its streets. She now lives in Goa.

Praise for A Bad Character

The title character of Deepti Kapoor’s searing debut is dead by Line 1, but I still read A Bad Character in one frantic sitting... Intoxicating.

Catherine Lacey, New York Times

A stylishly written, powerfully moving love story, set against the bleak beauty and baroque decay of 21st century Delhi - its rubble, construction sites, wastelands, and the poisoned ooze of its dead river. What Twilight in Delhi is to the twentieth-century Indian novel, A Bad Character is to the twenty-first: the essence of India’s corrupt capital, brilliantly and darkly distilled. This is a remarkable debut from a major new talent.

William Dalrymple, author of The Last Mughal

Twenty-first-century Delhi needed a voice, and here it is, in all its dark majesty. A Bad Character comes as if from nowhere: it is an alchemical marvel, a novel of stunning beauty and originality.

Rana Dasgupta

A Bad Character…captures [Delhi] in such perfect detail that I felt I could smell the food stalls, feel the crush of people and the heat rising from the pavements... As well as her transcendent eye for detail, the love story at the heart of this book is honest and deeply unsettling, making it a compelling read.

Kerry Hudson, Herald

A fiery, incandescent debut, A Bad Character artfully captures the fragmented psyche and perilous desires of a woman alone in New Delhi... [Kapoor's] writing has the flexible, lyrical cadence of a prose poem... A Bad Character is a powerful, psychologically acute, elegantly crafted debut that promises great things to come from Kapoor.

Claire Fallon, Huffington Post

The characters are interesting and the story grips, but the heart of this book is Delhi: filthy, challenging, destructive and thrillingly alive. A powerful read.

Rita Carter, Daily Mail

A poignant and impressionistic portrait of the end of adolescence and a changing world.

Charlotte Runcie, Daily Telegraph

Annihilating desire laps at the edges of Deepti Kapoor's A Bad Character...offers vivid insights into what it means to be a middle-class woman in 21st-century Delhi.

Hephzibah Anderson, Observer

Dark, sexy, magnetic, this is a grown-up coming of age story.

Condé Nast Traveller

Beautifully describes every scent, sight and sound of Delhi… A love letter to India, while fully acknowledging its flaws... the country’s dangers and restrictions, especially for women.

A Curious Animal

A Bad Character is thrilling and intense and dark.

Emerald Streeet

An intense treatise on the nature of desire and probably the best portrait of new India since Slumdog Millionaire.


The story and style are reminiscent of Marguerite Duras's The Lover, but when fused with teh vivid Delhi scenes, Kapoor's novel ventures into exciting and original territory.

Publishers Weekly

The literary fiction debut of the year… the coming of age story of a 21-year-old girl from Delhi, laced with poetry, confusion, sex and drugs. A fan of Marguerite Duras’ The Lover? Get this book.

Vogue India

A dream-like debut that explores the dark side of Delhi...the story is quick to move, charged with the energy of a racy page-turner, and visceral in its treatment of female desire and sexuality.

Somak Ghoshal, Mint

Kapoor paints a vast and detailed landscape of Delhi, canvassing the city and its people, its smells and stories, its ability to harbour hope and heartbreak in the same breath. With remarkable candour, she crafts sentences that stand out for their elegance and brevity; they linger in your memory long after the last page has been turned.

Anushree Majumdar, Indian Express

The sparely elegant phrases pack a wealth of colour, smell and association, evoking the reality of a city straining at the leashes, pulsating with deviant, joyous life.

Gargi Gupta, DNA

Fractured, fragmented and beautiful.


[Kapoor] writes with a keening, furious sorrow that rang in my ears well after I finished the book.

Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal (Europe)

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