Mosquito

Tearne, Roma. Mosquito. Europa Editions, 2008.

Reason read: Sri Lanka’s President Rajapaska’s party wins majority in elections (August 2020).

Mosquito has been compared to The English Patient and Atonement because of its theme of love in a time of war. Sri Lanka is a country torn apart. The Liberation Tigers want a separate Tamil state. Everyone is supposed to speak Singhala, the national language. There is violence over this mandated language. Mosquito is exquisite in its portraits of people. Each person lives and breathes with vitality. Notable author Theo Samarajeeva has fallen under the spell of a teenage artist (twenty-eight years his junoir) and, despite the growing conflicts, is brazen enough to think his fame will keep him safe. His latest book is being made into a movie. Teenaged Nulani Mendis (modeled after the author?) lost her father to the conflict. With a brother who can do no harm, a difficult uncle and an overbearing mother at home, Nulani finds solace and happiness painting Theo’s portrait over and over again. But she has also attracted the attention of Liberation Tiger convert, teenaged orphan Vikram. To watch Vikram being groomed and manipulated was hard. My favorite character was Sugi, Theo’s manservant who had become an unusual friend to the famous writer. His character is critical to the love affair between Theo and Nulani.
Tearne has captures poignant elements of grief. The not wanting to be near reminders of a loved one forever gone is very familiar to me. My only eye-rolling comment is the repeated insistence that 17-year-old Nulani is “wise beyond her years” as if this makes it okay for a man 28 years her senior to be attracted to her. My confessional: at the end of the book I wanted the fairytale ending. I didn’t care about the age difference and felt petty for doing so in the first place.

Lines I liked, “In this short intermission between twilight and darkness, a mysterious transformation had occured” (p 106) and “How many lives does a man have to live before he can finally be at peace?” (p 131). A little Bob Dylan, anyone?

Author fact: which came first, Roma Tearne the artist or the author?

Book trivia: Mosquito was shortlisted fothe 2007 Costa First Novel Award.

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Mosquito other than to explain the plot.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Scenes From Sri Lanka” (p 196).


Anil’s Ghost

Ondaatje, Michael. Anil’s Ghost. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000. EPUB file.

Disclaimer: This was my first electronic book. I am trying very hard to trust that everything that was in the published hardcopy was present in the e-book version. I have to believe I didn’t miss out on something by reading this on an iPad.

Anil’s Ghost is the clever weaving of fact and fiction. In the mid-1980s Sri Lanka was in a state of civil unrest. It went beyond a north versus south conflict and involved illegal government activity. Anil’s Ghost is the fictional account set in the middle of a political and historical truth.
Anil Tissera is a forensic anthropologist returning to Sri Lanka after a fifteen year absence.  As part of a human rights organization her obligation to investigate and ultimately uncover the truth about ethnic and religious killings occurring during the country’s civil war. Her entire attention remains focussed on one particular skeleton she nicknames “Sailor.” His remains have been found in an ancient burial ground and yet anthropologically he is considered a contemporary.  Upon arriving in Sri Lanka she becomes paired with man she doesn’t know if she can trust. Sarath is quiet and keeps many secrets. What is amazing about Anil’s Ghost is the lush language and the intricate character development. Each chapter is dedicated to the unfolding of someone’s life, past and present. This technique brings a fullness to the storyline. In the end you feel as if every character has purpose to the plot.

Most interesting – Anil. Hands down. I don’t really understand her obsession with changing her name. She actually “buys” one of her brother’s names because he has more than one. The way she buys this name is not explicitly spelled out, but it seems ominous.

Favorite lines: “She was working with a man who was efficient in his privacy, who would never unknot himself for anyone” (p 60), “She would not step back from her fury” (p 116), and “One can die from private woes as easily as from public ones” (p 237).

Line that gave me pause: “They had both hoped for a seven-bangled night” (p 118).

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the simple chapter called “Canadian Fiction” (p 51) and more interestingly from More Book Lust in two different chapters. First, in “It Was a Dark and Stormy Novel” (p 129), and again in the chapter called “Sri Lanka: Exotic and Troubled (p 213).