Reviews from the Guardian and the Times referred to this novel as “often funny” and crediting the story with “tremendous imagination.” I couldn’t disagree more. It appeared as if these reviewers knew nothing about Sri Lankan history because there was nothing funny about thousands of bodies hacked to pieces so they couldn’t be identified and dumped into a Colombo lake. Nor anything imaginative about these facts because that’s what they were—historical facts. What was clever about Karunatalaka’s writing was that Almeida, his main character is killed, and oversees these crimes as a ghost thereby telling the tale from an omnipotent viewpoint.
The novel may be classified as fiction, but the events carried out mainly by the Lankan government and the LTTE are fact. This makes the read an important book for anyone wishing to learn more about the Tamil genocide since 1983 even though the government was responsible for some 5 000 deaths over a decade earlier. Not an easy read, but a compelling one.