Fiction noontide toll review

Published on July 21st, 2014


Noontide Toll by Romesh Gunesekera

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Blurb: Vasantha is a van driver for hire, ferrying aid workers, returning exiles, and tentative entrepreneurs across the battle-scarred landscapes of Sri Lanka. The civil war is finally over, but the traumas of the past are still haunting. Behind the facade of peace we are made to remember the war: mysterious hoteliers conceal scars under their collars; genial old soldiers are secretly identified as perpetrators of brutal crimes; young Sinhalese men pine after Tamil girls whose brothers died by their hands. Vasantha keeps his own counsel, lingering on the periphery of his passengers’ stories, but as time goes on he reveals a little of his own story too. (Granta, July 2014)

Peter Kemp, The Sunday Times

“Characters believably never seem fully known. Ambiguities linger around them — and around the issues the book raises of whether to forget or remember the war. In these outstanding stories, its repercussions are documented with humane appeal and masterly finesse.”

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Randy Boyagoda, The Financial Times

“Without resorting to Salman Rushdie’s hot pyrotechnics, Michael Ondaatje’s postmodern cool, or Amitav Ghosh’s historical elaborations, Gunesekera can conjure strange and wonderful images in stories that appeal for the way their immediate simplicity sustains deeper meanings … the book’s weaker stories offer too much preachy and pedagogic formulations about Sri Lanka’s recent history, or string up the messy ends of otherwise well-wrought tales.”

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Keith Miller, The Telegraph

“As a representative figure of the new Sri Lanka, a kind of everyman with a van, Vasantha seems plausible enough. Certainly his apolitical, pragmatic outlook is understandable after a period when any outward commitment to this language or that religion might be enough to get you killed. And he is voluptuously attuned to the beauties of his homeland, hanging in the ocean like a tear shed by the subcontinent: the sea, the coconut palms, the thick heat.”

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