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Brixton Beach by Roma Tearne

Brixton Beach is a hard book to come by. It has very limited availability on Amazon--and only in the used market place. Luckily ILL was able to locate a copy for me to borrow; not so lucky with the other title I was looking for and was forced to break down and buy a used copy of off Amazon. Tearne is a British writer but is Sri Lanka born.

The book opens upon a scene of terrifying chaos. Simon, a London doctor is frantically searching for a loved one amid the chaotic aftermath of a bombing on the London tube. The scene is bewildering and heart pounding and vividly drawn.

In the next chapter we flash back to Sri Lanka; it is 1973 and Alice is nine. Her mother, Sita, is expecting a new baby. Sita is Singhalese; Stanley, Alice's father, is Tamil. In Sri Lanka the Tamils are a bitterly oppressed group and are seen as less civilized by the Singhalese, who are the ruling ethnic group. There's friction and tension slowly building to a violent conflict of civil war between the oppressed and discriminated against and the oppressive government and military. Stanley has plans eventually to move his young family to England where his younger brother has been living for years. He dreams of better opportunities for himself, and he wants to escape the growing violence and prejudice and oppression he suffers in his homeland.

This is the story of a family and its misfortunes as they are caught up in the tensions that threaten to tear their beloved country apart. It is also about the rising tensions and violence in a country that is rolling painfully and dangerously towards a bloody, violent civil war. The story of Sri Lanka is mirrored in the life of Fonseka family and the ensuing tragedies that threaten the fabric and cohesiveness of their family. The book tells the story of the years and decades leading up to the events portrayed in the opening chapter.

The writer vividly portrays the atmosphere and environment of Sri Lanka, which becomes another character in the story. The isolation felt by Alice, cut off with little communication with her family left behind in Sri Lanka, is convincingly and heartbreakingly drawn. The reader can't help but hope that there's a happy ending for Alice when so many close to her never found their happy endings.

I highly recommend this novel.


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