Born in England. Education: Trained as a journalist in Australia.
Writer, journalist, and documentary filmmaker. Worked for various newspapers, primarily in India.
The Ochre Border: A Journey through the Tibetan Frontierlands, Constable (London, England), 1995.
Scoop-Wallah: Life on a Delhi Daily, John Murray (London, England), 1999.
Goat: A Story about Kashmir and Notting Hill, John Murray (London, England), 2000.
Bollywood Boy, John Murray (London, England), 2002.
The Wonder House (novel), Grove Press (New York, NY), 2005.
Justine Hardy was born in England, then trained in Australia as a journalist. She has traveled extensively for her work, and spent a decade in India writing both for local and foreign newspapers. Her wide-ranging interests include the conflict in Kashmir since 1989, Tibet, the Tibetan Diaspora into India, spiritual tourists in India, Eastern religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam, and yoga. She has also worked as a documentary filmmaker, an interest cultivated in part due to a family background in acting and that is reflected in her writings about the film industry. Her book Bollywood Boy stems from the growing interest in the West in Bollywood and the Indian film culture. She was drawn both by the richness of the culture itself in modern-day India, and by her curiosity regarding the nature of stardom. She focuses in particular on Bollywood film star Hrithik Roshan, a young man who happened to be soaring to stardom at the same time she was writing the book. In an interview for the Hindu Web site, Hardy stated: "It's rare that I have met someone so haunting and so young. Hrithik really feels he has to do his best. He gives every shot his 100 per cent—he's out there studying the dance moves. But underneath everything, he's just a kid … a very nice kid who is terribly polite and wants desperately to do the right thing." Ultimately, very little of the book is about Hrithik, whose schedule made it difficult for Hardy to spend much time with him, but he serves as a focus for a book about the film industry in which he participates, as well as its place in the nation. Winnie Liesenfeld remarked in Geographical: "Hardy's wit and poignant observations are never more acute than when detailing the grimier sides of life in one of the world's most populous countries."
In Scoop-Wallah: Life on a Delhi Daily, Hardy relates her own experiences in Delhi working as a stringer for an Indian newspaper. The job afforded her an inside look at the nation and the opportunity to recount numerous stories about the colorful people she meets along the way, much in the manner Rudyard Kipling had during his own years as a reporter in India. Sophie Ransom, writing for Geographical, called the book "a brilliantly observed, often amusing and sometimes tragic account of a country where the Imperial structure is now a distant memory as it struggles to reinvent itself for the modern world." Library Journal contributor Ravi Shenoy noted that the resulting book is "mainly a commentary on Delhi in the 1990s, a world quite remote from Kipling's."
The Wonder House marks Hardy's first foray into fiction. The novel tells the story of eighty-year-old English widow Gracie Singh, who lives in a houseboat in Kashmir and mourns the loss of her husband and son. Other characters include the two women who help care for Gracie and her landlord and drinking companion, Masood. The story takes place against the backdrop of the nation's political struggles, but Hardy's strength appears to be her handling of the human emotions and more personal aspects of the story, according to reviewers. A contributor for Kirkus Reviews commented that "Hardy's lack of novelistic skill hobbles her attempt to pull together the personal and the political, the past and the present." However, Donna Seaman asserted in Booklist that "Hardy's gorgeously filigreed and sensory prose evokes an atmosphere of doom," and went on to remark that the characters and situations are reminiscent of the works of Thomas Hardy. Writing for Bookslut.com, Sumita Sheth also observed: "Hardy's characterization of her characters is compelling. We come to feel for Gracie Singh, who is sometimes over the top, yet so human and real in her heartbreaking loneliness." Sheth took issue with the political aspects of the book, however, writing that it "doesn't bring the reader far enough into the conflict. It is likely the issue of Kashmir itself being too large rather than the author's uneven handling."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Hardy, Justine, Scoop-Wallah: Life on a Delhi Daily, John Murray (London, England), 1999.
Booklist, March 1, 2006, Donna Seaman, review of The Wonder House, p. 61.
Geographical, March, 1999, Sophie Ransom, review of Scoop-Wallah, p. 68; May, 2002, Winnie Liesenfeld, "Lights! Camera! Action!" review of Bollywood Boy, p. 74.
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2003, review of Bollywood Boy, p. 950; February 1, 2006, review of The Wonder House, p. 74.
Library Journal, January, 2000, Ravi Shenoy, review of Scoop-Wallah, p. 139; February 1, 2006, Kellie Gillespie, review of The Wonder House, p. 71.
Publishers Weekly, June 21, 2004, John F. Baker, "A First Novel by a British Author, Journalist, and Documentary Filmmaker Who Specializes in India, Justine Hardy, Was Preempted on Both Sides of the Atlantic, by Grove's Elisabeth Schmitz Here and Atlantic's Clara Farmer in London," p. 12; December 19, 2005, review of The Wonder House, p. 36.
Bookslut.com, http://www.bookslut.com/ (March, 2006), Sumita Sheth, review of The Wonder House.
Deccan Herald Online,http://www.deccanherald.com/ (September 23, 2006), "A Mix of Old and New," review of The Wonder House.
Hindu Online,http://www.hinduonnet.com/ (September 23, 2006), Suchitra Behal, "Bollywood Calling."
Red Hot Curry,http://www.redhotcurry.com/ (September 23, 2006), Lopa Patel, review of Bollywood Boy.
Travel Intelligence Online,http://www.travelintelligence.com/ (September 23, 2006), brief biography of Justine Hardy.*