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A. Mangai

By Yasmine Gooneratne
Perera Hussein Publishing House, Colombo, 2007, pp. 645, SL Rs. 1000.00

VOLUME XXXI NUMBER 10 October 2007

This voluminous novel brings together the literature student, teacher, critic and social thinker in Yasmine Gooneratne. Set very close to the experiences of her generation in the last years of colonialism and early dawn of the new nation called Sri Lanka, the novel unfolds the growing up of Latha from a young girl to that of a scholar with a doctoral degree from Cambridge. The growth of Latha is juxtaposed and contrasted with that of her cousin Tsunami. In fact most of the eventful happenings in the novel are to do with Tsunami—her affairs, family turmoils, psychological trauma of her mother’s decision to leave her husband, marriage with an Indian, accident at the young groom’s yard on the day of their wedding, her ambition to write her novel and her exotic settlement in a Greek island. But the protagonist is Latha.   Rowland Wijesinha, father of Tsunami represents the upper class, elitist, English educated brand of people, who held official positions during the colonial rule and soon took over the politics of the newly independent Sri Lanka. With scant respect for independent opinions on issues of culture or history, people like him have no qualms about changing colours to suit the clime. Herbert Wijesinha, father of Latha on the other hand has the quality of an observant critic. He collects newspaper cuttings and is equipped to track the events in history. Without any interest in climbing the ladder of power, he remains strong and sure in the decisions he makes.   The mothers are much more glaringly different in their background and attitude. Helen is an artist of Indian Tamil origin with sensitivity towards her own selfhood. She tries to drown herself in the affairs of motherhood and household but finds herself miserable and low. She leaves her marital home with Mr. Goldman. It is said that she had not transgressed her marital vows and just escaped the stranglehold of marriage. She remains attached to and concerned about her children, especially to the younger daughter. Tsunami however remains in hatred of her mother despite her emotional affinity, till she gets to meet her again after many years. Some of her hidden fears as to whether she was born out of wedlock and whether she is not cut out for a faithful marriage seem quite overdone.   Soma, mother of Latha, on the other hand is educated in Sinhala, Buddhist ways. ...

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