A country picking up the pieces, a family among the ruins…
In the restless streets, crowded waiting rooms and glittering nightclubs of Colombo, five family members find their bonds stretched to breaking point in the aftermath of the Sri Lankan civil war.
Latha wants a home. Anoushka wants an iPod.
Mano hopes to win his wife back.
Lakshmi dreams of rescuing a lost boy.
And Niranjan needs big money so he can leave them all behind.
As the five leave Colombo to travel to an ancient city, the generations collide and long-held prejudices surface. With one foot in the old way of life and one firmly in the new, this family can never be what it once was.
Thoughts : Ruins is the second book I’ve read based in Sri Lanka and this one is more rooted in the culture than the first. Author Rajith Savanadasa has woven a pretty great story. I was originally going to say that it was a good book for a debut but no, it’s just a good book. In fact a great book, one that will remain in my memory and in my shelves for ages.
Ruins is a story about a family, Anoushka, Niranjan, Lakshmi, Mano and their “housekeeper” Latha grappling with what life has handed them and what happens before and after Velupillai Prabhakaran (the leader of Tamil Tigers) is killed. With each person focussing on a different thing, material and otherwise, Ruins talks about a family that doesn’t seem to realise that they are hurtling down the road to ruin.
During the war a little boy named Khanna disappears and Lakshmi is on the hunt to find him. Latha a place of belonging, somewhere she calls home. And while she thinks of their house as her home it really isn’t. Anoushka has been abandoned by her best friend who now hangs out with the popular girls. All she now wants is an iPod so she’ll look cool to her friend again. Mano spends time away from home with others till one day he realises that he’s lost his wife. He spends most of the time in this book buying food from expensive restaurants to win her back. And Niranjan, who’s come back from studying in Australia, just wants to get away from the lot of them.
It’s a story about the painful merging of the two worlds, Lakshmi (a Tamil woman) merging with the post war world where Sri Lanka celebrates the death of Tamil people because they now think all Tamils are terrorists. Anoushka and Niranjan trying to mix their modern world with their traditional one and hating one or the other all the time. And Mano….well I don’t like him as a character so no comments.
It starts with Latha getting a visit from her brother who’s trying to convince her that she has to come back to their village. But she left as a child and she has no connections there, her elder sister doesn’t care about her and she thinks the only reason her brother wants her is because he needs a free maid. The story then jumps to each perspective landing again with Latha but now her world is upside down.
The story handles many topics from war crime to suicide to bullying with each narrative voice so authentic that you’re surprised that it wasn’t different authors writing it. Rajith handles each character perfectly, Anoushka sounds like a depressed teenage girl, Niranjan sounds like a bratty pampered boy, Lakshmi sounds like a woman who is disgusted by her world and her husband and Mano sounds like he’s going through a typical midlife crisis. Latha’s voice though is done best in my opinion, you feel as confused as she does, as upset as she does. Yes the social construct in these countries work the way they do because it works here but the fact that she doesn’t even notice how little she thinks of herself is the most jarring aspect of her characterisation. One that broke my heart.
Since it has multiple characters and each ones POV you get to see what each one thinks of the other and how they all interact with each other despite that. It was absolutely brilliantly done and I’m very excited about this book.
The landscape isn’t trees and rivers like you’ normally see in Asian books, it’s a city, a school, clubs and pubs. It’s modern Sri Lanka meeting the traditional and it is done perfectly. Author Rajith has released a kickass debut, one that will resonate with anyone who is from an Asian country and one that will seem fascinating to anyone who is from elsewhere.
*I was very kindly sent a review copy by Hachette India (thank you) but thoughts expressed are my own.