Drama

Sri Lanka by Stephen Holgate

I have read one book previously by the author : Tangier and when I saw another book written by the same author (and that gorgeous cover), I had to pick it up.

It is not hard to imagine that people in politics, in foreign offices carry heavy burdens of their versions of truths. They must also hold with them memories of actions they carried out due to their beliefs at the time of their being carried out.
Here, we meet a man closer to his retirement than the beginning of his stint in foreign postings. A chance encounter at the home of a man he is not very fond of but has to socialise with, he comes face to face with his past. This past starts with his posting in Sri Lanka and his arrival into a country ravaged by civil war. I cannot vouch for the veracity of the facts of the situation (which I was blissfully unaware of for a large part of my childhood, despite the proximity to the country). But the content, the flow of narration makes it seem genuine and real and can quite easily be taken for a work of non-fiction. One thing I must say is that the English spoken by the locals, the way the speech flows with specific pauses and starts felt entirely natural. It is rare to see an author present the south-Asian style of speaking English (although there are tons of sub-classifications) without it coming across as stilted or dis-jointed.
The ravages of colonialism have left deep gouges in the country, and the differences which the powers had utilised to keep the country divided are still in full force. Our narrator, Philip Ried, is a man who genuinely wants to make a difference in his post. He is tied by not just external forces but also by his own emotions. He gets involved in the machinations of things he keeps being told he doesn’t understand. Towards the end, he realises how much of that statement is true.
Overall, it is a well-written story that draws one in and keeps them hooked until the end draws near. The ending is not the kind that appeals to someone like me but was something I had to accept as a better fit to the way the tale was told. I would recommend it to people who are fans of historical fiction.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I received an ARC thanks to Edelweiss+ and the publishers, but the review is entirely based on my own reading experience.

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