Arjie is a young Tamil boy unsure of his identity in Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo. When racial riots break out in 1983 with the burning and killing of Tamils and their property, Arjie’s life is in danger.
Although this was Selvadrai’s debut novel, its tale has stayed with me more than any other of his more recent novels. To me it’s still his finest work.
This is a collection of short stories written by British Columbian writers. Because Canada has a diverse population, there are tales from Africa, Asia and Europe as well as local stories. The collection contains both fiction and non-fiction and I was proud to include two of my own short stories both set in Tanzania.
Lib, an English nurse, arrives in an Irish village in the 1850s to keep watch over Anna so as to confirm that she doesn’t eat. The child’s fast is driving the faithful on pilgrimages to her house and Lib is suspicious.
This is not only a book about the politics of religion, but blind faith and Lib is determined to get to the bottom of why Anna fasts.
How did this author keep me engrossed in her tale when most of the story is set in Anna O’Donnell’s bedroom? It’s no wonder, this book is beautifully written as well as an intriguing tale.
A Man Booker prize winner, this novel traces Pi Patel’s journey from Pondicherry by sea. His father has brought the animals from the zoo they once owned in the coastal city, but not long into the journey, the boat sinks and Pi and a few of the animals are the only survivors.
While the movie of this book was beautifully filmed with a well chosen cast, it failed to capture the philosophical essence that made the book a memorable read.
The Orkney islanders think Isobel Gunn is crazy when she races to meet each ship docked in the harbour asking about James. Only Magnus remembers how heroic Isobel was twenty years earlier when she disguised herself as a man and sailed to Rupert’s Land back in the 1800s to work in the harsh Canadian wilderness.
Equally as good is Thomas’ Tatty Coram, a minor character from one of Dickens’ novels whom she weaves into the life of Dickens himself.
When Shivan prepares to return to Colombo to bring his aging grandmother to Canada, memories of his childhood flood back. He remembers how he was the one forced to befriend the greedy and callous matriarch so his widowed mother and sister would not be kicked out of her house. He suffers her beatings and insults because his grandmother despises his mother for marrying a Tamil and producing two half Tamil children.
Set through an era of political hatred towards the Tamil minority (that still persists to day) and grappling with Shivan’s sexual orientation, this is a story wrought with tension on many levels.
Although Maggie’s mother is French Canadian, Maggie is sent to an English school by her English father. But in spite of her predominantly English up bringing, she falls in love with a poor French boy, Gabriel. At fifteen she discovers she’s pregnant. Pressured by 1950s Quebec’s stance on unwedded mothers and her beloved father’s threat of abandoning her if she keeps the child and has any more to do with Gabriel, Maggie’s child, Elodie is taken from her.
Goodman presents the English/French mistrust in Quebec to perfection and while at times the story is predictable, the experiences of little Elodie’s time in two institutions reflects the horror orphans of that era went through. A compelling read.