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.
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: ...
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 (1139 words).
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.
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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