Noontide Toll by Romesh Gunesekera
Sri Lankan fiction
Source – review copy
I opened up the pathway of the heart
The flowers died embittered from the start
That night I crossed the bridge of sighs and I surrender
I looked back and glimpsed the outline of a boy
His life of sorrows now collapsing into joy
And tonight the stars are all aligned and I surrender
My mother cries beneath a southern sky and I surrender
I choose a David Slyvian lyric I surrender from his Dead bees on a cake album the somber mood is a bit like the book
Tonight I’m back with third book from this years DSC south asian prize shortlist and last before we announce the winner of shadow DSC prize , we managed to read all the books between us .Anyway back to Noontide Toll , I’ve long been a fan of Romesh Gunesekera ever since reef appeared on the Booker shortlist more than twenty years ago , this was also a book I had looked forward to reading , even thou it had taken a while for me to get to it , as I had loved one of his earlier short story collection Monkfish moon is my favourite book by him .I have reviewed him before his book The prisoner of paradise is also here
In the Tsunami of 2004 , the Galle cricket stadium was destroyed .Obviously , that was not all .Up and down the coast , thirty thousand people lost their lives .Whole towns in the south disappeared .The devastation was a bad as the war .Maybe only half as many people died or a third , but all in a day rather than over thirty years of human madness
Of course there was the damage of Tsunami as well as the civil war .as in the opening of the story shoot .
Noontide toll is one of those short story collections that could also be called a novel very easily it follows a collection of trips and people connected to a van driver called Vasantha , as he goes about his business as a driver and van , he is hired by various people and as we see them coming and going .This follows life returning to normal , if that is the word after the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka .The war saw the north trying to be a separate state from the south as the population in the north the Tamils formed a small percentage of the island and were always the underdogs .Anyway if the course of the book Vasantha starts in the south , in fact the stories is in two halves the first being the south and then as with the stories the second half is the north , seeing him visiting libraries destroyed by the war .elsewhere the past of britain is visited as some one goes to see Leonard Woolf’s house .
I hadn’t had any people from Holland in my van before .I liked these two .They might have been diplomats or from some funding agency , but they didn’t talk much .On our journey up ,I don’t think they said more than a dozen words each .But already they have picked up some local terms .
from the opening story folly, maybe title has more meaning ! but it sees the van taking people come to give money after the civil war .
I for one was shocked at the time there wasn’t more reported on the violent end of the Sri Lanka civil war , which saw the government after a number of years of Tamil tiger actions in the mid 2000 , finally launch an all out attack on the north which saw the fall of the Tamil tigers , but also 200,000 people displaced by this violent end to the conflict .I imagine for Romesh this was a hard book to write and get right , not be too one way or another but even as we find out in the book Vasantha could be any of us , he is an average Joe and even he can see how wrong near the end of the book what had happened in the final years of the civil war and the deep scars that are still there just under the surface ,possibly waiting to explode again ! As we spoke about this book , I was tuck by a point Lisa said about how easily forgotten events like this are and how some people may have not even been fully aware of what happened their .
Have you read any books by Romesh Gunesekera ?