5 journalers for this copy...
How will they survive the terrible consequences? And what will the grief and horror they have endured mean for those around them?
This is an evocative, beautifully written tale of love and war set in Sri Lanka.
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I must admit that I have a real soft spot for post-colonial stories and this is certainly up there with the best ones that I've read, all the remarkable given that it was the author's first novel. Some may complain that the ending was a little fairy-tale like but after the reader has expended so much emotional energy anything else would have been just plain cruel IMHO.If you enjoy beautiful writing then I would heartily recommend it but expect to go on a roller-coaster of emotions.
Set in Sri Lanka during the civil war between the ruling Singalese and the Tamil Tigers, the book follows a number of characters. We have Theo, a guy in his mid forties who has moved back to his native Sri Lanka having lived in Europe for decades. Between that and his liberal views and artistic mind (he is a sucessful writer), despite his age he is intensely naive. He just doesn't get the tensions between the two factions and assumes everyone will be as mature and reasonable as himself - wrong, wrong, wrong as he learns to dire consequences. I think he's also very naive in a way when it comes to Nulani, who is only 17 when they meet. She's an inexperienced chld in other words and the seduction of her is well meant and honest, but at the same time, given her circumstances, is he on some level taking advantage? But they're both alone and suffering. Theo's European wife died, and he was devastated and moved back to his native country under some illusion that home is always best. Nulani's father was burned alive in riots when she was a child and she lives with her mother, who dotes on her brother "Lucky Jim" and ignores her. So maybe they do need each other. But perhaps the 10 year gap Tearne gives them neatly solves that problem.
We also follow Vikram, a teenager living in the same town on the coast. He is Tamil, and as a boy saw his entire family killed by the army (should add on this point that the attrocities committed in this book are committed by both sides - there are amazingly good people on both sides as well as utterly evil - and the end result is that it all seems an intense waste of time and contempt for human life) and he is taken and put in an orphanage and then adopted into Singalese community, where I don't think everyone realises he is of Tamil origins. As he had a brief stint as a child solider for the Tamils, he is easily recruited back into their guerilla warfare. It's heartbreaking to see the use of child soldiers, how it not only steals their childhood but their humanity. They seem to be emotionless. And disgusting, when you see the attack on the airport, how the kids are all sent to do it (most of them being killed) and the adults are hiding in the jungle out of harm's way. No wonder they have teams of such merciless, horrendous torturers... they're bred thus from childhood. And in the end, those used and abused children are just tossed away as one-use disposable trash.
Theo's house manager/cook/cleaner/friend (I don't know what title to give him as he does so much) Sugi... oh, dear old Sugi... is there to look after Theo and try to advise him against being too foolhardy - Sugi understanding the real dangers of society at that time. And he is such a faithful and loyal friend to both Theo and Nulani.
Theo has a friend Rohan, a painter, also Sri Lankan with a European wife, who lives in Colombo and eventually has to flee himself as it's not safe. I suppose it's worthwhile and interesting to show the years after escaping to safety, for although they're away from the civil war and threat to life, the attrocities they've seen follow them and torment them for years. Trying to rebuild a life with that is not easy.
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