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The Prisoner of Paradise [Hardcover]

Romesh Gunesekera
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
RRP: 16.99
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Book Description

2 Feb 2012

When Lucy Gladwell arrives in Mauritius from England to live with her aunt and uncle in their grand plantation house, her mind is full of the poems of Keats and tales of romance . She is nonetheless unprepared for the beauty, fecundity and otherness of this island paradise between Africa and India, where she is to be waited on hand and foot by servants and free to let her thoughts drift on the sea breeze.

If only they did not drift to such problematic subjects as the restrictions of colonial society, or the bigoted outbursts of her uncle, or the disquieting attractions of Don Lambodar, a young translator from Ceylon, himself entangled in thoughts of iniquity and desire and facing a decision

which could risk his precarious position.

Under the surface there is growing unease. For it is 1825: Britain has wrested power from France

and is shipping convict labour across the Indian Ocean. The age of slavery is coming to its messy end. Word is lapping against the shores of the island - of revolts in Europe and the Americas, and of a charismatic new Indian leader who will shine the light of liberty.

For Lucy, for Don, for everyone on the island, a devastating storm is coming...

In this bold novel of intimate passions and colliding destinies, Romesh Gunesekera weaves together the story of two young lovers in search of freedom, and the eloquence of the

bonded heart.


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing (2 Feb 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408804263
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408804261
  • Product Dimensions: 14.7 x 22.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 629,490 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Romesh Gunesekera was born in Sri Lanka and lives in Britain. His first novel Reef was shortlisted for the 1994 Booker Prize.
He is also the author of The Sandglass,(winner of the inaugural BBC Asia Award) and Heaven's Edge which like his collection of stories, Monkfish Moon, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. His fourth novel The Match, published in 2006 was hailed as one of the first novels in which cricket was amply celebrated and a "book that not only shows what fiction can do, it shows why fiction is written - and read." (Irish Times).
His fiction has been translated into many languages and he has run highly acclaimed writing workshops around the world. He has also been a judge for a number of prestigious literary prizes including the David Cohen British Literature Prize and the Caine Prize for African Writing and the 2013 Granta list of the Best of Young British Novelists.
Granta reissued his first three books in 2011 and the paperback of his latest novel, The Prisoner of Paradise, is out now published by Bloomsbury.
His novel is a BBC World Book Club choice and the programme is available on-line at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p014wlpd
For more information see www.romeshgunesekera.com or www.facebook.com/Romesh.Gunesekera

Product Description

Review

Gunesekera's lush descriptions make you see and smell the island and feel its hot, damp air on your skin (Spectator)

The film is waiting to be made. It's all there: an inverted but murky Pride and Prejudice, paradise spoilt, ill-fated lovers, rascals, imperial wickedness, the cunning of natives, plots and melees and a host of fabulous flowers. Romesh Gunesekera's novel takes the bouquet of romantic clichés and throws it up, makes it soar and scatter, leaving its scent in the air... Exquisite prose awakens all the senses ... a terrific read: pacey, political, moral, atmospheric and yes, definitely romantic (Yasmin Alibhai-Brown Independent)

Gunesekera is strikingly adept at delineating the landscape of rootlessness ... [He] has a gentle, generous, deceptively light touch (Sunday Times)

Subtle and convincing, it is life as art, art as life. Gunesekera is gifted and possessed of a rare humility ... [his writing] shows what fiction can do, it shows why fiction is written - and read (Irish Times)

Seriously and movingly, The Prisoner of Paradise contains a very modern message: a plea for the book. It has as much to say about writing as it has about love and colonial misery ... Here are the genuine answers, colourful, arresting, fresh and enormous as any opera (Todd McEwan Glasgow Herald)

In this blisteringly lucid novel, it's as if Jane Austen, John Keats, Charles Dickens and even William Burroughs have clubbed together to render a masterful double-take on the 19th century's own ideas of romance and empire, rendered in a colossally skilful, flexible hybrid of the best of English prose and prosody (Herald Scotland)

Book Description

A lyrical, beguiling story of slavery, freedom, identity and forbidden love from the Booker-shortlisted author of Reef

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
By Ripple TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
The paradise in Romesh Gunesekera's "The Prisoner of Paradise" is Mauritius, although quite who the prisoner is is open to question. Set in 1825, the island is a tinderbox of tension. Britain has taken control of the island from the French and is shipping convict labour, mainly from India but also from Sri Lanka, then Ceylon, and there are remnants of the increasingly unpopular slave trade also working in the sugar cane mills of the island where punitive taxes make any other sort of arrangement uneconomic. The result is a veritable crucible of nationalities and tensions are high. It's a fascinating backdrop and a relatively unusual setting for fiction.

Shipped into this cauldron is young Lucy Gladwell, arriving to live with her aunt and uncle after the death of her parents in England. Her aunt, Betty, is a paragon of decorum, concerned with what is right and fitting for a young girl and running her plantation house with some tenderness towards her servants, but traditional in her views. She and her husband, George, are used to the colonial life, having lived in the West Indies previously, where George's racist views have been forged. Also recently arrived on the island is the somewhat incongruous presence of a Ceylonese Prince, his brother and their young translator, Don Lambodar. The prince is in a British enforced exile and is only partly a prisoner. This appears to be based on a factual exiled prime minister, although his elevation here to a fictional prince adds glamour but also makes the story a little too fairy tale. However, the focus is not on the prince, but on the young translator and his feelings for Lucy.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 3.5 Stars. Atmospheric and Lushly Described 2 April 2012
By Susie B TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Romesh Gunesekera's fifth novel: 'The Prisoner of Paradise' is set on the multicultural island of Mauritius in 1825, fifteen years after the British have won it from the French during the Napoleonic Wars. The age of slavery is coming to an untidy end and the British are shipping convicts from India and Ceylon across the Indian Ocean to work as forced labourers on the sugar plantations.

Into this complex cultural society arrives nineteen-year-old Lucy Gladwell, a headstrong, yet romantically minded young woman, who has come to Mauritius to live with her aunt (practical and dependable) and her uncle (a dreadful government official who we later hear coming out with appalling things such as: 'That little sambo needs a good whacking') in their grand plantation home. As Lucy floats in a tub of fragrant water strewn with rose petals and perfumed with drops of lemon grass, her head is full of romantic stories from Moore's 'Lallah Rookh' and of the poetry of Keats, and she is initially delighted by all she sees around her. But it does not take long, as she moves around the area, for her to see that not all is as idyllic as she thought and that beneath some of the smiling faces around her lie feelings of deep unrest and rebellion.

Lucy's Aunt, who ostensibly appears oblivious to the social unrest around her, interests herself in homely pursuits and in finding a suitable husband for Lucy, favouring her French neighbours as suitable and eligible men for her young niece. However, when Lucy meets Don Lambodar, an interpreter from Ceylon, and is both very attracted and simultaneously repulsed by him, she finds she has scant romantic interest in the eligible but boring young Frenchmen recommended by her aunt.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Jane Austin in Mauritius. 22 Nov 2013
Format:Paperback
Lead to believe from the blurb that this might be a book worth reading I was disappointed. When I finally finished I was left feeling rather flat and from the way in which it is described, slightly robbed!

There are some interesting idea's and the scenery is described beautifully but it was a rather gentle read with a few 'horrors' thrown in for dramatic effect which unfortunately, I feel, missed the mark.

Lucy sets off to live in Mauritius after the death of her father. She has nothing, however, she is informed that she has been left a sum of money with which to live out her days. This money doesn't materialise and I found it a little odd that Lucy doesn't enquire more about it. She finds herself living in a Plantation home with her Aunt and Uncle and is persuaded to try and join in with 'society'. She meets the exiled Don Lambodar and enters into a strange relationship with him that is somewhere between love and hate. She struggles with her own feelings for him and he tries his best to appear interesting and gentlemanly.

The relationship between the two characters and also between Lucy and her Aunt (Mrs Huyton)is very similar to what you might come across in other period novels especially those written by Jane Austin and her ilk. Mrs Huyton all a flutter about Lucy's marriageability, joining in with society and being 'seen' in the right places ( reminiscent of Mrs Bennet in Pride and Prejudice) and the obvious feelings that Lucy develops for Don Lombodar and her delight at punishing him with words put me in mind of a certain Mr Darcy. Once I'd thought about that I just couldn't get over it and it did ruin the book slightly for me.

Alongside this storyline is the story of the island itself, the slaves and servants and the concept of freedom.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars An evocative and beautifully written love story 11 Feb 2014
By Pollyanna Darling - Author & Intuitive - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Whilst initially I found the rich, descriptive writing style of this book breathtaking, after a while it was rather like eating too much cake. However the deceptively simple story of a young girl's emigration to 1800s Mauritius swept me along like the waters that feature so strongly in the narrative. Artistic penmanship makes the tale seem more like a painting than a novel, a story that leaves visual imprints on the imagination, images that both disturb and delight.

Overall, the experience of reading The Prisoner of Paradise was lush and rich, but the story faded soon after I put the book down.
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Read 9 Mar 2013
By ChristophFischerBooks - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
"The Prisoner of Paradise" by Romesh Gunesekera is a great historical novel set in Mauritius in 1825. As always with the author it is enjoyable and magical and creates a great atmosphere of the time. The way the various characters perceive the political changes and the end of slavery, combined with a sweet love story made this a charming and pleasant read.
4.0 out of 5 stars Old fashioned feel to this Mauritian story of young love and idealism 24 Mar 2012
By Ripple - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The paradise in Romesh Gunesekera's "The Prisoner of Paradise" is Mauritius, although quite who the prisoner is is open to question. Set in 1825, the island is a tinderbox of tension. Britain has taken control of the island from the French and is shipping convict labour, mainly from India but also from Sri Lanka, then Ceylon, and there are remnants of the increasingly unpopular slave trade also working in the sugar cane mills of the island where punitive taxes make any other sort of arrangement uneconomic. The result is a veritable crucible of nationalities and tensions are high. It's a fascinating backdrop and a relatively unusual setting for fiction.

Shipped into this cauldron is young Lucy Gladwell, arriving to live with her aunt and uncle after the death of her parents in England. Her aunt, Betty, is a paragon of decorum, concerned with what is right and fitting for a young girl and running her plantation house with some tenderness towards her servants, but traditional in her views. She and her husband, George, are used to the colonial life, having lived in the West Indies previously, where George's racist views have been forged. Also recently arrived on the island is the somewhat incongruous presence of a Ceylonese Prince, his brother and their young translator, Don Lambodar. The prince is in a British enforced exile and is only partly a prisoner. This appears to be based on a factual exiled prime minister, although his elevation here to a fictional prince adds glamour but also makes the story a little too fairy tale. However, the focus is not on the prince, but on the young translator and his feelings for Lucy.

Ostensibly it's a conventional story of boy meets girl, boy cannot express himself, girl hated boy, and will they won't they resolve this issue all set against a backdrop of social tension and unease. There's even the good old literary fall back of nature, here in the form of a tropical hurricane, to bring things to a head. It's the issues of social tension though that, for me, made it a slightly difficult story to get sucked into. Gunesekera covers a lot of issues, which undoubtedly would have been issues of the day, but there are just so many things going on in the background that this distracts slightly from the central story.

It feels like a very old fashioned book. Partly of course this is due to the 1825 setting, but also due to the writing style which can be described as "flowery" - both metaphorically and literally as Gunesekera is much concerned with the flora of the island which is also something of a melting pot of influences.

Lucy is a young idealist, much taken with poetry, and is ill prepared for the reality that faces her on this island paradise. So who is the prisoner here? Lucy is confined by social norms, Betty is confined by a difficult marriage, Don Lambodar is partly confined by his exile but also by the bars of language, and that's before we get into those who are genuine convicts. The book's strength is that it encourages the reader to ask these questions, but to me, the problem is that it detracts from the central relationship between Don and Lucy. I found myself reading their story with interest but without being truly engaged in their plight.

Gunesekera's message seems to be that you can take any physical paradise and really mess it up by adding human beings. The general tone of the outcome of the relationship is also, for the attentive reader, rather obviously flagged midway through the book but I'll leave you to discover what that is.
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