Two more books have now been completed in my quest to read a goodly portion of the long list.Both have been enjoyed and have been contrasting novels rendering different ideas and thoughts.
Rome Tearne’s ‘The Swimmer’ is set in Suffolk and this appealed as I spent my teenage years growing up in this sleepy part of the world. Indeed the descriptions of Suffolk landscapes and scenery was certainly evocative for me and took me back to those formative days in my life. The novel itself is told in three voices though as the first part unfolds this does not seem the likely outcome. Indeed the first section seemed to be revolving around a love story developing between an illegal migrant from Sri Lanka (the Swimmer in the title) and a lonely somewhat bruised middle aged woman, a poet, stranded both literally and metaphorically in a sleepy Suffolk village, though a place of much significance for her as we see with the novel unfolding. I could have seen the whole novel unfolding in this way and was surprised by its sudden shift at the end of the first section. The two other sections told in the voices of the Sri Lankan’s mother and then the woman’s daughter are in themselves interesting stories and help unfold the richness and complexities both of the civil war in Sri Lanka, a central theme and the struggles for identity and place for the daughter as she reaches the end of her adolescence. Critics were critical of this change of pace but I think the novel held together, was certainly well written and told an interesting set of stories and yet again gave me insight into events across the world you read about but rarely get a chance to really consider.
The second novel was written by a Burmese-born novelist, Wendy Law-Yone and is called The Road to Wanting. Wanting is a place on the chinese-burmese border and the novel is about a young woman, Na Ga, born into a troubled group in Burma, the Wild Lu, who finds herself in Thailand on a journey of repatriation to her birthplace she fears is no longer there. A fumbled and aborted attempt at suicide begins the novel and then the story is told retrospectively as the difficulties of Na Ga’s world are unfolded in her reminiscences. It is a truly harrowing story and the portrayal of the impact of sex trafficking is brutally done and yet important to be so presented unless anyone is under the impression that trafficking has any redeeming features at all. The simple prose belies a depth of discovery of self and the struggle to survive. I found this a powerful and evocative novel of the struggles of a young woman still as she determines what life will bring next for her and indeed what it is she wants. A must read and one I hope will be short listed.