Customer Reviews: Funny Boy
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on April 9, 2003
Story refreshed my childhood memories of the sad incident of 1983 Sri Lanka.Though I did not see any of those nasty things happening still I can remember the destroied and burnt down houses. As a child of 11 I could not understand the real reson behind that.But I was very sentitive and cried for days.
After few years when I knew what was actually happend in 83',I become more sadder. I cried again with Argie when he cried inside his burnt house before leaving Sri Lanka. What I was really wept for is the human resource we, Sri Lanka, lost from the deaths and migration.
We lost the service, and friendship of so many Arjies.
We are sorry Arjie and we missed you a lot.
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on June 13, 2015
Selvadurai did an amazing job by letting stand each chapter as a story yet moving it all forward in a loosely tied kind of way. The text is light, easy and engaging without sacrificing depth. It actually would be a great read to be recommended (after an introduction to recent Sri Lankan history and social structure) by parents to a teenager and then discussed. I believe to understand myself both the geographical and social context very much and think the story is very realistic in almost all its aspects. I suspect it is highly biographical, perhaps autobiographical. Recomended.
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on November 27, 2012
This book is charming, well written, and brilliantly written. The narrative is generally light-hearted despite somewhat serious background content. I won't spoil the novel, but it's definitely worth reading if you're interested.
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on September 26, 2014
the essense of reading about Gay love and the very core of homosexuality, including the teenage confusion on that part of his anatomy, is indeed described well by Selvadurai. As a part of my Gender study course, when the book was prescribed to me, I was not so sure about my reaction to it. But after reading it, and especially the steamy and very emotional Garage scene described in it, I was forced to acknowledge the sheer brilliance of the author and his sentiments displayed all over the books.
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on January 16, 1998
This novel's theme is similar to Edmund White's "A Boy's Own Story". It is a story of a young boy's realization that he is gay, and of his first steps in dealing with this. What makes this novel special is the setting - the tropical paradise of Sri Lanka, a garden of eden, but wracked by civil unrest. You can see the exotic landscape and smell the flowers in the beautiful prose from this Canadian based writer.
Arjie is a schoolboy at a strict British style boys only school. He has always had the feeling that he is different. Starting as an unformed feeling that manifest itself in his playing "bride" with his girl playmates, it gradually develops into homosexual feelings.
Arjie develops a crush on another boy at school, Shehan who is a prefect. To the reader, it is not clear who seduces who. Both boys seem to want a relationship, though Shehan is in denial of his homosexuality.
The two have a brief affair which is physically OK but has no emotional depth. The civil unrest grew in parallel to Arjie's sexual awakening. In a twin climax he finds both his inclinations confirmed and the need to flee his country for safe haven.
The language of the novel is well written, describing in detail not only the flavour of the exotic country but also the religious quarrel that separates the two sides in the civil war.
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on March 14, 2004
This book has both passion and humor. It stays with you long after you have finished reading Shyam Selvadurai's poignant and humorous novel "Funny Boy." The novel is set around the outbreak of the Sri Lankan Civil War. It is told through the eyes of a young Tamil boy who encounters the stigma of his growing homosexuality and the increasing violence that his family faces from the Sinhalese. The fault-lines in relations between the Tamils and the Sinhalese are explored through of the romantic vignettes in the novel. But the brutal reality of Sinhalese violence, and its impact on Tamil families, is never far from the surface. The protagonists favorite aunt is attacked on a train by two drunk Sinhalese and there is a reference to the murder of some elderly relatives in an earlier riot. All these stories will ring true for the vast Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora. The writer conveys the sense of helpless fear that gripped many Tamils families as they prepared to flee Sri Lanka. July 1983 was a watershed event in Tamil history and "Funny Boy" is one of the first mainstream novels to emerge from the people who suffered through the violence of that time. Shyam Selvadurai is a rare talent as a novelist. He confirmed that with his follow-up novel "The Cinnamon Gardens."
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on January 22, 1998
From the very opening of the story to its end, I found myself entering the life of not only the main character but of everyone he encounters. We meet a young boy and his playmates, his family and other relatives, his schoolmates, friends of family, friends of friends, etc., each real and compelling enough to be able to spawn a whole story of his own. That is the magic of this book, which makes the reader desperately desire to know the fate of each and every character and follow the trail of each unfolding episode beyond the bounds of the printed page. If there is one fault in this book it is that it doesn't somehow enable us to follow the life of each character to its final outcome. Sri Lanka, which was to me a distant and unfamiliar place before reading the story, became a familiar and intimate part of my consciousness. More than the story of a boy who struggles to discover his sexual identity, it is a story of how human beings integrate with one another and their time and place in the world, to create a gripping and moving episode in the drama of life.
My suggestion to Mr. Selvadurai is that he give us a sequel to this book by picking up any one of the other wonderful characters he introduces and give us their story.
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on December 22, 2012
Very good book easy to read with a very interesting take on the Tamil ethnic struggle. The characters have great depth it was easy to picture them all in their own backgrounds. In many ways it could identify with minority struggles in any part of the world I like the treatment of the boy himself but the book is about so much more than that. Enjoy it
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VINE VOICEon 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]
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on July 14, 2013
Six short stories give the reader a rich sense of time, place and character, coalescing into an emotionally visceral coming of age story. Arjie's (the protagonist) exploration of sexuality and gender roles is all the more compelling as it is told with the language and perspective of a child on the brink. The labels 'gay' or 'effeminate' are never mentioned. Instead, the reader is privy to all the awkward, confused, passionate and furious bodily and social experiences of gender and sexuality. All this is set against the back drop of ethnic tension in Sri Lanka, showing how love, sexuality, culture and politics are always entangled. Fabulous read.
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