Summary and book reviews of Homesick by Roshi Fernando

Homesick

By Roshi Fernando

Homesick
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  • Hardcover: Jul 2012,
    288 pages.
    Paperback: Jul 2013,
    288 pages.

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Book Summary

From the winner of the 2009 Impress Prize for New Writers (U.K.) and finalist for the Sunday Times Short Story Award, a stunning debut novel about an extended Sri Lankan family - a kaleidoscopic view of contemporary immigrant life, by turns darkly funny, sad, poignant, and uproariously beautiful.

It's New Year's Eve 1982. At Victor and Nandini's home in southeast London, the family and their friends gather to ring in the new year. Whiskey and arrack have been poured, poppadoms are freshly fried, and baila music is on the stereo. Upstairs, the teenagers have gathered around the television to watch The Godfather again while drinking pilfered wine. Moving back and forth in time, from the 1970s to the present day, and from London to Sri Lanka and back again, we follow Victor and Nandini's children: Rohan, Gehan, and in particular dyslexic Preethi - funny, brash, and ultimately fragile. We also meet troubled Lolly and her beautiful sister Deirdre; wonderful Auntie Gertie; and terrible Kumar, whose dark deed will haunt the family.

Chapter 1

Victor is thinking of other parties, of his childhood: quiet, dignified, the productions of an excitable wife of a dour clergyman. Homemade marshmallows, he remembers, lightly coloured with cochineal, dusted with icing sugar. He stands in the hallway of his own home in southeast London, looking at the late afternoon sun colouring everything with a honey glaze. My, he thinks, he can even see his own pudgy hand, reaching up to the table to steal a sweet, and a servant clucking away behind him, shoo-shooing him, as if he were an escaped hen. If his father had seen him, there would have been the nasty, damning words about thieves, about hell. He hears Preethi and Nandini in the kitchen, the pan lids banging, the murmured voices, one of them chopping at the table, a small laughter. I am rich, he thinks.

He walks into the sitting room, adjusts cushions on the plush cream sofas, a recent investment. The plastic covers have been removed for this evening but will go back tomorrow: ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. What does the title mean? Who is homesick? Who isn't?

  2. Would you call this a novel or a collection of connected stories? Why?

  3. Throughout the book, Fernando moves forward and backward in time, with characters coming to the forefront and receding. What was Fernando's intent? What effect does this have on you, the reader?

  4. Who is the main character in the book? Who did you feel most connected to?

  5. In the title story, the younger generation watches The Godfather over and over on video. What connections can you draw between that film and Homesick?

  6. Racism and anti-immigrant sentiments are laced throughout the book. Which characters seem best equipped to deal with the world in which they live? Who seemed most adversely affected by ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

In the end, Homesick emerges as a moving and powerful novel about Sri Lankans in England. In showcasing her characters' everyday anxieties and triumphs, Fernando effectively portrays a slice of humanity we can all - immigrants or not - identify with readily. It is this empathy that Fernando manages to elicit from her readers and that makes Homesick such a compelling, triumphant debut.   (Reviewed by Poornima Apte).

Full Review Members Only (1139 words).

Media Reviews
The Irish Times

Exuberant... A rambunctious portrait of an extended Sri Lankan family in south London... as addictive as any full-length book by Vikram Seth or Michael Ondaatje.

Financial Times

Everyone in Homesick seeks to belong - to a place, a community - and Fernando portrays their plight with a tenderness that extends to the very structure of [her book]... Home, in Fernando's world, is not a resting place, but rather the dream of a ritual, both inherited and of our own invention.

The Observer (UK)

Tender, uplifting and funny.

The Independent (UK)

Roshi Fernando is a powerful new voice... [In Homesick], charm, humour and poignancy alternate with dark trials... The book offers complex, mosaic characters and compelling storylines... Fernando's insight, wit, sensitivity and versatility mark her as a striking new talent.

The Sunday Times (UK)

It is notoriously difficult to capture an authentic immigrant voice. [Homesick] manage[s] it brilliantly... A debut that can confidently sit alongside the likes of Zadie Smith's White Teeth and Andrea Levy's Small Island... [Homesick] address[es] the trials of marriage, the coming to terms with sexuality and the need to find an identity in terms that are universal to all.

Literary Review (UK)

Fernando's observations are fresh and her style sharp. She can recreate a whole childhood's worth of low-key resentment in a couple of lines... Fernando is serious but never earnest; her compassion for her misguided characters is infectious, and the book leaves you with an uplifting glow.

Kirkus Reviews

Fernando writes expressively and finds an appropriate emotional correlative to convey a variety of tones, from nostalgic to tragic.

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The Game of Cricket

In Homesick, Victor, a Sri Lankan immigrant to England, views his native country's cricket team as his own. He owes allegiance to them and takes pride in their successes. Roshi Fernando uses this sport as a metaphor for her character's desire to break free of colonial ties.

cricket bats The game of cricket is defined by Merriam-Webster as "a game played with a ball and bat by two sides of usually 11 players each on a large field centering upon two wickets each defended by a batsman." Possibly an ancestor of American baseball, the sport plays somewhat similarly. One person, called the "bowler," pitches (or "delivers") a hard leather ball down a 22-yard-long strip of dirt (called the "pitch") toward the other team's batter who is protecting his ...

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