Sunday, 13 September 2015

Sweet and Simple Kind - Yasmin Goonaratne

Amazon.co.uk
A great novel about two girls growing up in Srilanka, living through the changes that transformed its landscape.

This book was appealing after I learned that it was shortlisted for the Commonwealth prize. I fell in love with Srilanka after I read Nyomi Munaweera's An Island of Thousand Mirrors. So when I came by this one that showcased a similar promise, I couldn't resist dunking into it.

Gist:

Latha and Tsunami are two cousins growing up in the 50s and 60s Srilanka in an sprawling estate, nestled in beautiful countryside. Theirs is an idyllic childhood, spent in the company of books and nature. However, certain events in their childhood severs their relationship temporarily and consequently changes it forever. Growing up, they bond once again as they join the same university. However times are changing. The once tolerant society is simmering with racial conflict and Tsunami and Latha find their lives affected by it, one way or another.

What works:
  • It is a very well written and a beautiful novel about a much happier time in the beautiful country of Srilanka. 
  • The story seems partly autobiographical as the author, like Latha, has a similar academic background and hails from a political family.
  • There is a certain indulgence especially when it comes to the Peredeniya parts, where the author seems to revel in the academic life of the campus.
  • The story gathers pace when the girls get to the university and are exposed to a broader canvas of life.
  • Despite an old school style the writing brings out the author's love for her country and her characters. 
  • Latha and Tsunami are loveable characters and the names show a lot of insight into their personalities. Although, not all readers may be able to connect to them, but it is easy to empathise with their characters.
What doesn't:
  •  I began this book hoping to gain more insight into the Srilankan conflict. Although this book touches upon the issues concerning the Tamil and Sinhalese, the story doesn't go beyond the individual and refrains from becoming a national experience.
  • Latha and Tsunami find themselves indirect victims of the conflict. In Tsunami's case it is Daniel Rajratnam and in Latha's case it is Paula and Rajan Phillips. However, the story sticks to their individual lives and choices and does not shed more light on the conflict. I felt a bit disapppppointed on that score.
  • The pace is slow in the beginning. It reads moree like a memoir of idyllic childhood spent at the family home and the author seems to savour it as she devotes pages to it. The only thing that kept it going was her fluid style and her ability to draw introduce interesting characters.
Overall an enjoyable novel. It is a good story about two women in a conservative Srilankan society of the 50s and 60s. 

A well written story about women and their position in a changing society. Do not expect much insight into the Srilankan conflict and it is an enjoyable read. 

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