Book Review: The Days Toppled Over


Malli is unable to speak outside her own home. The highlight of her life is a weekly phone call with her younger brother, Surya, who is studying in Australia. When Surya misses their call for the first time, Malli’s quiet life is thrown into disarray.

In Sydney, student life is more precarious than Surya had imagined. At the restaurant where he lives and works, Surya endures squalid living conditions and abysmal pay, in pursuit of the elusive work visa that will allow him to stay in the country. But then a racist customer sets off a chain of events that will see Surya commit a reckless act of love, risking everything for which he has worked so hard.

Set between Bangalore and Sydney, The Days Toppled Over is a powerful exploration of mental health, family and the lives of international students in Australia. With a rich sense of place, a memorable cast of characters, and a good dose of humour, it illuminates how we all need friends and contact with other humans – and how these simple things can result in transformation.


I had been eagerly waiting for Vidya Madabushi’s big Australian debut—The Days Toppled Over, ever since I heard about it. Growing up as an Indian, I had a lot of privileges, including reading books by Indian authors. However, reading an Australian author of Indian origin hits entirely differently.
Vidya Madabushi’s debut novel, ‘The Days Toppled Over,’ explores the intricate tapestry of sibling relationships, mental health prejudices, the complexity of international students and, most importantly, the strength of the human spirit. Through vivid storytelling and well-drawn characters, Madabushi presents a poignant exploration of personal growth in the face of adversity.
The story centres around the protagonist, Malli, a young woman who can’t speak outside her home. Her life revolves around a weekly phone call with her younger brother, Surya, who is studying in Australia. When Surya misses their call for the first time, Malli’s calm life gets turned upside down. Deeply plagued by her brother’s absence, Malli decides to take matters into her own hands and is set to do everything to uncover the truth—even if it means travelling to Sydney.
The strength of the novel lies in its portrayal of sibling dynamics. Through Malli and Surya, Madabushi skillfully captures the essence of sibling bond—the unspoken understanding, the shared memories, and the fierce protectiveness. The novel also excels in shedding light on the complexities of an immigrant navigating a foreign land while striving to achieve academic and personal success. It allows readers to broaden their understanding of the challenges faced by those who leave their home country to pursue a better future.
Being an Indian, an expat and above all, an elder sister, I could closely relate to all the themes involved. Readers who appreciate stories of love, determination and the power of connections will be captivated by this heartfelt narration of a sister’s unwavering pursuit of the truth. ✨

The Days Toppled Over was published on 20 June 2023 by Penguin Books Australia. You can purchase the book here.

TitleThe Days Toppled Over
AuthorVidya Madabushi
PublisherPenguin Books Australia
List Price32.99 AUD

To read our interview with the author Vidya Madabushi, click here.