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Amusing novel with little depth
on July 7, 2008
This book is an often amusing look at the coming of age of a young homosexual boy in Colombo, Sri Lanka in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The book starts out with a very funny description of Arjie, the protagonist, and his female cousins playing bride-bride. Arjie is passionate about the game and his role as bride and is very disappointed when his family discovers his penchant for girl games and forces him to play cricket. This is Arjie's first realization that people think he is "funny" - a code word for gay - and that he does not quite fit in to typical gender roles. As Arjie gets older, he becomes his mothers confidante as she enters into an inappropriate relationship with an old flame. At the same time, Arjie becomes more aware of his role as a Tamil in Sri Lankan society at a time when the Tamil Tigers were forming and tensions between dominant Sinhalese and Tamils are growing. Arjie also is forced to enter a tough all boys school, where his father hopes that he will become a man. Paradoxically, at this all boys school, Arjie realizes that he is indeed gay and embarks on his first homosexual relationship.
This is clearly a debut novel. While some of the anecdotes are humorous and the historical information on the Tamil-Sinhalese conflict is interesting, the author's style is shallow. There is insufficient depth to the novel and it seemed to be better suited to a mature high school audience (given the sexual content) rather than an adult audience. The book is at root a hallmark plea for tolerance, which makes it a feel good story. However, the writing is a bit jaunty and other than Arjie, the other characters are not well developed. I think the author is not sure which story he wants to tell - the Tamil story or the gay story - and does not do the best job of combining the two. Both of those stories are out there, but they seem to compete for attention in the novel.
Ultimately, this is an enjoyable first effort, but was disappointing in that the author did not do more with the novel. [close]