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The Sweet and Simple Kind: A Poetic Account of a Nation's Troubled Awakening Paperback – June 1, 2011


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"There is much to commend. . . . As one of her characters comments, 'Jane Austen's observation of society was part critical, part amused.' That quality is evident here."  —Sunday Times


"Sensitively observed, at once a bold novel of national consciousness and a tender tale of family and friendship."  —Sunday Business Post

About the Author

Yasmine Gooneratne was born in Sri Lanka. She won acclaim as a critic and has published several works of literary criticism, including studies of Jane Austen, Alexander Pope, Leonard Woolf, and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, and one previous novel.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 712 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group; Reprint edition (June 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349121745
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349121741
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,995,946 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Cary Watson on July 17, 2011
Format: Paperback
Yasmine Gooneratne is Sri Lankan born and bred, and her native country is the setting for this ambitious novel that details the changes that gripped Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) from independence in 1948 to the race riots in 1958 that foreshadowed the civil war that began in 1983.

Gooneratne centres her story around two female cousins, Latha and the rather portentously named Tsunami. The latter is from the rich side of the Wijesinha family, while Latha's family is decidedly middle-class. The two girls become fast friends as young girls at Lucas Falls, a large house and tea plantation owned by Tsunami's father, Rowland. Latha visits Lucas Falls on her vacations and is a witness to what amounts to the moral decline and fall of Tsunami's family over the course of the next dozen or so years.

When we first meet Rowland he's married to Helen, a skilled amateur artist originally from India, and their lifestyle is in most respects that of an upper-class English family. Their taste in literature is Anglocentric, Helen's art is Western, their peers are often Oxbridge educated, cricket is an obsession, and their children attend elite local schools modeled on institutions like Eton and Harrow. In sum, they're almost more English than the English.

Gooneratne depicts Latha and Tsunami's early years at Lucas Falls as a kind of Eden in which the two girls discover a shared love of books and learning. Helen is the muse of this paradise, encouraging the girl's curiosity, discussing art and literature with them, and generally encouraging a liberal way of thinking. The dark cloud in paradise is Rowland, who acts the part of the English gentleman, but soon becomes influenced by the rising tide of Sinhala nationalism that will eventually tear the country apart.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kathleen J. Leonhardt on June 23, 2011
Format: Paperback
Had to have major surgery at beginning of month and someone brought this book saying that as I love history, India, Pakistan and SriLanka-- I would love this--kind of thought the title was a bit 'out-of-here' but boy! Once I got started I couldn't put it down! Absolutely swept up in post colonial Ceylon(Sri Lanka)--and the birthing of the current state-- interwoven with asian contemporary coming-of-age. This book describes the British cultural influence to the nth degree--I almost could see the Bird's Custard and stewed fruit on the dining room table--yet so beautifully paints the Sri Lankan cultural experience as an underlying flow penetrating the whole. This book sometimes reminded me of 'Midnight's Children' by S Rushdie as the author describes the 50's and 60's in Ceylon(SriLanka)as a wonderful toss of western culture and values re-mixed with a combo Hindu, Sengelese,Tamil,English flavor! The gist of the book follows a prominent SriLankan family's journey from the 40's up to the early 60's--against political pressures, nationalism, the ideals of a new nation, education, romance,and family life.Two cousins--one from the richer side of the family--and one the poorer--grow up together and go off to university--then launch to adulthood. The author is a poet so I was not surprised at the lyrical writing--this was a written 'movie'--sometimes the British university environment was a bit much and the main character, 'Latha' a little too good for words--but overall--loved. Many paradoxical moments--arranged marriages against liberal education; pretending cultural identity to achieve political prominence; inspiring ethnic division to retain power--you will always think deeper the next time you drink your tea!
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