It’s hard to know what to make of this book, from its provocative title to one of the last words (“smooth”). For a long time, I was skeptical about the alternating narratives. Even when the overlaps started to emerge slowly and then become central, I wasn’t sure that the form of the novel was the best choice. Was the overlap anything more than clever?
I think it all comes down to what you think of Latha. She’s certainly a complex character. She makes poor choices, is treated poorly, and has a lot of wonderful qualities. But the overlapping elements of the two narratives suggest that there are a lot of causes for her behavior. So are we then to excuse it? Understand it better? Feel hopeful because of her plans for the next stage of her life?
Freeman writes well – in a more straightforward manner than I expected. When she lets loose (not often enough, in my opinion), her prose can be quite elegant.
Would I have gotten more out of this if I knew more about Sri Lanka and its politics? Or is this the story we’ve seen elsewhere, but with new details? The story of a girl and a woman who make unconventional choices to try to break out of their circumstances. Certainly, the girl ends up being the center of the story, but the woman gets half of the pages, so why that title? (Can you tell that it’s bugging me? There’s something so petulant about it.)
I’ve read good reviews about Freeman’s newest novel, On Sal Mal Lane.
I didn’t love this book, but it’s staying with me, haunting me even, so I will certainly try her new one when it comes out in paperback.