Category: Literary/Historical Fiction
Cultural: Sri Lanka
It’s incredible when a book can seize you in its grasp and tell a story that’s searingly painful, yet intimate & beautiful all at once. At its heart the novel follows the fates of two families at opposite sides of a war torn Sri Lanka. The brutal and long civil wars between Tamils and Sinhalese in Sri Lanka did actually happen, but this novel is a fictional story. Narrated from the perspective of the eldest daughter in each family, it’s a story of how they negotiate war, loss, migration, identity and their love for a country drenched in the blood of innocents caught between the crossfire of the Sinhalese soldiers and the Tamil revolutionaries. Munaweera manages to weave a novel so grand in its scope within just 237 pages. It was one the rarer occasions when I wished the novel was longer.
Her writing is dense and brims with metaphor, meaning and depth, it’s almost impossible to believe that this is indeed a debut. Here’s a snippet of the narrator describing the paintings by her younger sister, Lanka.
‘In later years, Lanka’s paintings will cover entire walls. She will paint fluorescent green paddy fields stretching into sapphire skies, mangosteens split and glistening with erotic plumpness, tumescent green plantains bursting off the canvas. She will paint ferocious forest orchids and elegant five pearled plumeria. The entire island will burst from her brush, so that entering a room containing her paintings, one will feel the air suddenly wet, the hair will stick to one’s forehead. “I can remember it all this way”, she will tell people, “only when I paint”.’
If you want to try and read something different, I would definitely recommend this book.