A beautifully crafted second novel from Booker finalist and Sri Lankan-born Gunesekera (Reef, 1995) tells of two warring...



A beautifully crafted second novel from Booker finalist and Sri Lankan-born Gunesekera (Reef, 1995) tells of two warring families in contemporary Sri Lanka. Like the reluctant confession of a wayward spouse, the truth of the tale here is learned incrementally, teased out by inference and gradual revelation. Nor are there any stunning denouements-only a pervasive sadness as two accomplished families, like Sri Lanka's two real-life warring factions, continue harming each other. The story of the feuding Ducal and Vatunas families is narrated by Chip, himself a Sri Lankan who immigrated in 1975 to London (where he lived in Pearl Ducal's apartment). A year after Pearl's death, Chip, in Sri Lanka on business, is anxious to catch up with Pearl's son Prins, whom he suspects has gone into hiding for fear of his life. Cutting back first to the previous year, when Prins flew to London for his mother's funeral, Chip continues afterward moving back and forth through time and place as he tells what he learned or intuited of a story beginning back in the 1930s, when Pearl married Jason Ducal. Jason turned out to be an astute businessman, but when he bought his dream house--next to the Vatunas family's compound--the Ducal family's troubles began: Esra, the Vatunas patriarch, conspired to undercut a business venture of Jason's and was probably responsible for his murder in 1956; Esra's son Tivoli may have been Pearl's lover; and his grandson Dino seemed determined to block Prins' marriage to Lola Vatunas, Dino's daughter, and tried to deter Prins' efforts to discover who killed Jason. As Pearl hints in deathbed reminiscences and in letters found afterward, living near the Vatunas family permanently blighted the Ducals' lives. Elegiac in mood and rich in evocations of character and setting, a novel that gracefully limns the origins of a domestic--and national--tragedy.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1998


Page Count: 288

Publisher: New Press

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1998