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Heaven's Edge Hardcover – 22 Apr 2002

3.6 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; 1st Edition edition (22 April 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747558132
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747558132
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.6 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,222,156 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

An oddly ethereal futuristic quality-- a touch of JG Ballard even--permeates Romesh Gunesekera's third novel, Heaven's Edge. The book's protagonist, Marc, is a "man in search of a father or perhaps in search of himself". He has travelled from London to the beautiful but deeply troubled island of his ancestors. His late grandfather Eldon, an Eastern sage-like figure whose "dodgy homilies" clutter the narrative like speed humps, left the isle more than 50 years before. A staunch pacifist, Eldon was shocked when his own son, Lee (Marc's father) returned to fight, and die, in a war there. On the island, Marc is enraptured by Uva, a beautiful local woman. Initially he believes he has, at last, found the exotic homeland conjured up by his grandfather's more colourful stories. In between bouts of sensuous love-making, Uva educates Marc about the harsher realities of island life--realities Marc becomes all too quickly aware of when he is hauled off by the authorities. Separated from Uva and unsure if she is alive or dead, he finds himself on the run with her flouncy transvestite friend Jaz and an alchemical metal worker, Kris. Interweaving their adventures with Marc's memories and reflections, Gunesekera creates a mood of impeding doom. (The gradual erosion of Marc's innocence is the constant and recurring theme.) The military regime, like the island itself, is never actually named. Fragments of peripheral information give hints but the setting is disquieting and dreamlike; enhancing the sense of omnipresent and universal evil. Once a firm admirer of his grandfather's moral stance Marc slowly comes to realise that "a world that you care so much for, that you believe in" has to be protected. Subtly and poetically written, this novel occasionally creaks under the weight of its ambitions. Some of the characters are perhaps too thinly drawn and the sequences unconvincing but Gunesekera's magical prose makes enchanting reading. --Travis Elborough

Review

"A Landscape almost hallucinogenic in its abundance is matched by a lushness of language," -- Maya Jaggi, The Guardian, 11th May 2002

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By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on 26 Mar. 2003
Format: Paperback
Heaven’s Edge is unique--it is not a romance, not a war chronicle, not a religious allegory, not an ecological polemic, and not science fiction, though it contains elements of all these genre. Marc, a young college graduate from London, has returned to an unnamed island, much like the author’s island of Sri Lanka, on a mission to connect with his father’s memory. His father, a military pilot, left the family in England when Marc was a very young child and returned to the island where he died while on a mission. Marc’s doting grandfather, who raised him, never understood what drove his son to return to the very island he himself had escaped.
The novel opens with Marc’s arrival at the island by boat, and Gunesekera quickly establishes the mood and the themes of freedom and repression, and past and present, as the boatman, upon his arrival, releases two flying fish, accidentally netted during the trip. The island is under military control, and the hotel where Marc stays strictly limits his movements.
In an intensely romantic scene, Marc escapes the stultifying restrictions one day and meets Uva, a young woman who is trying to repopulate the forest with native birds and animals, all of which have disappeared during the long war. When Marc is suddenly rendered unconscious and Uva disappears from his life, the mood changes instantly from romance to surreality, as Marc finds himself in captivity, enduring a regimented life more akin to science fiction than the heights of romance.
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If you are someone who believes the tourist cliches about Sri Lanka being a paradise this book is not for you. The story is set on an unnamed island which could perhaps be Sri Lanka but is probably not. I call this a book of magical realism because Gunesekera has brilliantly imagined a post-apocalyptic landscape where the truth is hard to find. The narrator is a young man named Marc, born in Britain of parents who had emigrated from the island. Both parents died when Marc was a child and he is brought up by his grandparents. His grandmother gave him a background of "solid" reality, "making pancakes and baking him banana bread or ginger cake every Sunday". After his grandparents also die, Marc is left without moorings. He comes across an old video cassette in which his father had recorded his experiences on the island where he mysteriously died. Marc feels impelled to travel to the island to find himself, his "soul". On the island Marc finds that nothing is what it seems. He meets a girl named Uva who accompanies him on a series of adventures which easily hold the reader's interest.
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Format: Paperback
What can I say that's good about it? It is imaginative and seeks to tackle important subjects.

Looking at the review above, I can see, couched in more diplomatic language than mine, the reasons why I'm finding this book such hard going. Characters are thin ciphers, dummies for Gunesekera's ventriloquist speeches about life, the world and everything. His poetic language is clunky and lapses into commonplace, clichéd phrases that I'd have expected an editor to prune out. The sexual allusions - notably the "commingled resin" that Uva sniffs - had me cringing. I dearly hope (and I'm only on page 127) that one of the military authorities carries out a mercy killing soon. Merciful for me, because I'm not sure how much more of Jaz's insultingly stereotypical camp interjections I can stand.

The reference to J G Ballard's writing makes sense. I had to suffer the decidedly misanthropic 'Myths of the Near Future' as part of another course unit - great conceits but utterly, utterly cold.

This is a stinker. More fool me for buying it because it had such a pretty cover and was so adorned with admiring reviews from reputable newspapers. But I'm determined to read to the end now - and perhaps I'll be back with a second, humbler and more appreciative review
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Format: Paperback
I've been rather keen to read one of Romesh's books for a while and recently picked up this novel from my local library.

Unfortunately I was HUGELY disappointed with this book. The storyline and characters are very weak and watered down. The book's journey is rather predictable and too simple in its structure. In certain places, I felt quite nauseous at the sex scenes and their narrative. I feel that the writer has cheekly drafted in the character of Eldon as a mouthpiece for his pacifist views. The only character to rescue the book was the rather camp Jaz.

It would be very unfair of me to critise the writer as this is the only piece of work I have currently read by him. However I may rashly assume that it is not one of his better works.

One to avoid, I'm afraid.
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Format: Paperback
This is an entrancing, gripping story that haunts: a remarkable and disturbing fantasy narrated with balletic poise.
Romesh Gunesekera's charismatic philosophy might be disarmingly simple but it takes full account of the complexities of human nature, and as such his 'fiction' is entirely plausible.
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