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Five Great Books set in Sri Lanka

1st August 2019

Five Great Books set in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is the latest stop in our Five Great Books series, and after the recent troubles it is delightful to be able to visit the island, find inspiration and then actually travel there when it is ok to do so.

Sri Lanka is an island that everyone loves at some level inside themselves. A very special island that travellers, from Sinbad to Marco Polo, dreamed about. A place where the contours of the land itself forms a kind of sinewy poetry. Romesh Gunesekera

The Story of a Brief Marriage by Anuk Arudpragasam

Dinesh is a young man trapped on the frontlines between the Sri Lankan army and the Tamil Tigers. Desensitized to the horror all around him, life has been pared back to the essentials: eat, sleep, survive. All this changes when he is approached one morning by an older man who asks him to marry his daughter Ganga, hoping that victorious soldiers will be less likely to harm a married woman. For a few brief hours, Dinesh and Ganga tentatively explore their new and unexpected connection, trying to understand themselves and each other, until the war once more closes over them. Told in meditative, nuanced and powerful prose, this shattering novel marks the arrival of an extraordinary new literary voice.

The Teardrop Island by Cherry Briggs

Mr Fernando led me into a dark room that was lined with book-cases and smelled of leather and damp. The polished, concrete floor of the library was covered with white jasmine flowers that had blown through the windows during the storm. He began to select from the shelves a collection of disintegrating books. ‘If you are going to read any of them, it should really be this one,’ he said as he passed me two thick volumes, embossed with gold lettering and spotted with damp. The work was simply called Ceylon and was written by an Irishman named Sir James Emerson Tennent, who had been sent to the island in 1845 by Her Majesty’s Government.

The Teardrop Island follows in the footsteps of the eccentric Victorian James Emerson Tennent, along a route which takes Cherry to pilgrimage trails, into tea estates and rural regions inhabited by indigenous tribes, as well as through restricted areas of the former warzone, delving under the surface of the contemporary culture via cricket matches and fortune tellers.

Trouble in Nuala by Harriet Steel

When Inspector Shanti de Silva moves with his English wife, Jane, to a new post in the sleepy hill town of Nuala, he anticipates a more restful life than police work in the big city entails. However an arrogant plantation owner with a lonely wife, a crusading lawyer, and a death in suspicious circumstances present him with a riddle that he will need all his experience to solve.
Set on the exotic island of Ceylon in the 1930s, Trouble in Nuala is an entertaining and relaxing mystery spiced with humour and a colourful cast of characters.

Anil’s Ghost by Michael Ondaatje

Anil’s Ghost transports us to Sri Lanka, a country steeped in centuries of tradition, now forced into the late twentieth century by the ravages of a bloody civil war. Enter Anil Tissera, a young woman and forensic anthropologist born in Sri Lanka but educted in the West, sent by an international human rights group to identify the victims of the murder campaigns sweeping the island.

When Anil discovers that the bones found in an ancient burial site are in fact those of a much more recent victim, her search for the terrible truth hidden in her homeland begins. What follows is a story about love, about family, about identity – a story driven by a riventing mystery.

Chinaman by Shehan Karunatilaka

Ambitious, playful and strikingly original, Chinaman is a novel about cricket and Sri Lanka – and the story of modern day Sri Lanka through its most cherished sport. Hailed by the Gratiaen Prize judges as ‘one of the most imaginative works of contemporary Sri Lankan fiction’, it is an astounding book.

Tina for the TripFiction Team

For our full database of books set in Sri Lanka, just click here!

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