Monday, January 21, 2013

Book Review: The Good Little Ceylonese Girl by Ashok Ferry

On the jacket:

The Good Little Ceylonese Girl is Ashok Ferreys second collection of darkly humorous tales about Sri Lankans at home and abroad. 

Our Sri Lankan narrator visits his friend Joe in Italy where Joe attends a course in higher (or, shall we say, lower) studies in women. But Italians much like todays residents of Colombo live at home till marriage, death, and sometimes even beyond. A hen and chicken affair of fake fiances and phony engagements ensues. Long years and many miles away, Colombos Father Cruz attempts to rescue a church from parishioners who like to put their donations where others can see them with plaques to announce their charity. On the coast, a retired Admiral escapes the tsunami on an antique Dutch cabinet. A broken mother with neither Dutch cabinet nor navy helicopter to rescue her feels her son slip away, and watches him go giving her looks of mild reproach. Two childhood sweethearts, in time-honoured Sri Lankan tradition, are married off to strangers. Nineteen years of clandestine meetings culminate in another chance of marriage. Perhaps time does separate. 

Ashok Ferrey writes about Sri Lanka and its people, wherever they roam. He writes of the Sri Lankan diaspora, who seem not to notice that their country has changed in their absence. He writes of the Wests effect on Sri Lankans, of its turning them into caricatures, unmistakably genuine but not at all the real thing. As you laugh, you are left with nostalgia for a bygone Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans who might have been. 


I haven't read Ashok Ferrey before but I have heard a lot about his first book which was a set of short stories - Colpetty People. 

The Good Little Ceylonese Girl was a little difficult for me in terms of typical Srilankan phrases. A collection of seventeen stories, by the time I was on the third story, I was at home with the environment in them. The characters are not overpowering. 

The cover story is where the girl struggles between being good and making the wrong, right. Her decisions in life affect her adult life. The darkest story in the book, the story builds up to a finish which is quite surprising. 

Ferrey's writing is effortless; the stories are nicely peppered with puns, even the more serious of the stories. 

Rating: ***/5

[This review is for Random House India. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]

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