The prisoner of paradise by Romesh Gunesekera

Romesh Gunesekera is a Sri Lankan born writer ,he has written five books previously including the booker shortlisted Reef ,he is currently writer in residence for the charity first story .I ‘ve had Romesh’s books on my mind since last summer I borrow his book the match and never got round too reading it before it needed being back at the library but knew I wanted to read him as I had enjoy Reef and his debut the short story collection monkfish moon a short story collection in fact one of my favourite short story collections .So at christmas when he did one of the BBC Radio three essays in honour of Dickens and he talked about this book and how in a little ways it was influenced by dickens.Then next day it dropped on my doorstep from Bloomsbury if ever I was told to read a book it was this one .It seemed right to do it the day before dickens birthday ,also it was a change of subject from the early books of his I d read as it is a historic novel where the other I d read had been set in the present or recent past .

THE book is set in 1825 in Mauritius ,we meet Lucy Gladwell a typical Romesh character a young person who is in the middle of changes in her life like Triton in Reef Lucy has had a change this one sees her going to her aunt and uncle as she is an Orphan and has come to escape looming poverty ,another dickens connection how many orphans do we meet in dickens that go live with family good or bad .She is 19 years old but in our modern eyes she is a lot younger than that in her world view ,anyway as the story unfolds she is dazzled by this wonderful island. This island is a melting pot of africa and india with people from all over the place there ,as with most islands like this tend to be a little different to the life she is used to in the uk .and also slow to change to the modern world .

“Ananas,ananas” ,and tipped forward a basin of jagged sweet smelling yellow fruit .George Huyton wielded his cane with both hands.Get away with you .Out .Out two young brown boys dodged him.

Lucy sees her uncle and minutes later he does this that sets tone for the book .

As we she her Aunt Betty and Uncle George live in a island full of people from round the world but her uncle has the bigotry of a ruling class .later we see Lucy as she falls for a young man from Ceylon (Sri Lanka now ).This is man Don Lambodar isn’t her openly bigoted uncle first choice to say the least .Else where away from the Island slave are rebelling and things are happening in the uk people are rioting ,in this time it took weeks for this news to slowly seep through drop by drop as we see tension on the island grow between the plantation owners and workers and slaves ,all this comes to the head as disaster hits the island .Romesh is the master of description the island comes to life through his carefully written descriptions of flowers and food .But the main theme of this book is freedom what is it who has it are the all prisoners as they are held on the island and also to a set of rules to who they are and how they act ,as the world outside the island is seeing this change due to Peterloo riots that had happened six-years earlier but is just soaking through to the island and People like william Wilberforce .Lucy see this all through her innocent eyes and lets you draw your own conclusion which is the same as her becomes as the story develops .

Have you read his books ?

February 2012
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