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The Village in the Jungle
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 14 July 2013
A beautifully written view into village life on a tropical island in colonial Britain. This novel is vivid and readable. While the author clearly illustrates a particular culture and time, that of a rural family in the "dry" forest area, where life is particularly hard and short, the psychological and social effects of poverty have universal qualities. The colonial administration system is clearly one of the villains of the book, and the gentle innocence of the main characters portray a way of life influenced by Buddhism present in the island to this day.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 1 September 2014
An engrossing tale, inspired by the author's time as assistant governor in the east of Sri Lanka. Set in a small village, it concerns the taciturn loner, Silindu, and his motherless twin daughters. Silindu is an outsider in his village, and prefers to spend his time away hunting in the jungle. But life is hard and desperately poor, and he finds himself at odds with the village headman, who has the power to make his life difficult...
Love, hatred, greed, plotting, religion, superstition all come into this tale; and over it all the British administration, whose taxes and permits make life that bit harder for the peasants.
Having recently visited this area of Sri Lanka, I really felt Woolf's writing brought the area to life ;
'The jungle surged forward over and blotted out the village up to the very walls of her hut...Its breath was hot and heavy...it closed with its shrubs and bushes and trees, with the impenetrable disorder of its thorns and its creepers, over the rice-fields and the tanks.'

In a short story, 'Pearls and Swine' which appears in my (Eland) edition, Woolf expresses some of his opinions on the shortcomings of colonial rule.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Leonard Woolf wrote this after seven years working as a colonial officer on the island of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and this novel shows his growing disullusionment with the British colonial system. First published in 1913, Woolf centres his story on the village of Beddagana (which means, 'the village in the jungle'). "All jungles are evil, but no jungle is more evil than that which lay about the village of Beddagama..." he states and, "the rule of the jungle is first fear, and then hunger and thirst."

Beddagama is surrounded by jungle and the villagers who live there grow rice, where possible; but usually millet or maize and a few vegetables. There are ten families and the main character is Silindu, who beat his wife after giving birth to twin daughters, but gradually comes to care about them. We follow the father and his strange, silent children. The villagers fear Silindu and his strange ways and are jealous of his daughters, who are fair and beautiful. The villagers struggle on the edge of starvation and debt and, when Silindu's daughters, Punchi Menika and Hinnihami, grow into women their beauty indirectly causes a series of tragedies for him and his family.

This is a very interesting book about an isolated community and the problems they face. Silindu wants to live with just his daughters for company, but the world refuses to leave him alone and he struggles to understand anything outside of the village and the jungle he calls home. There is much about the superstition of a people living a very difficult life; trying to eke out a difficult existence, threatened by debts and by their powerlessness. You really also get a sense of the jungle as a malevolent presence, pressing in upon the small village that huddles within it. Very well written, evocative and worth reading.
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on 29 September 2014
This book was written at the height of the British Empire by Leonard Woolf when he was posted to a remote forest area of Ceylon, as it was then, in the colonial service. The book caused a great stir at the time as it was written from the point of view of the village boy and was actually questioning the colonial system of which the British were so proud. It brings out the huge gap between the beliefs and social mores of a remote poor village community and their white British colonial rulers as well as being a heart rending story. A thought provoking read.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 5 March 2011
An excellent book which reveals the true nature of colonialism. Instead of the nostalgic pictures of gentlemen in white ducks sipping gin slings, L. Woolf shows us the real situation of pre-independent Ceylon. His book however does not dwell on the mea culpa of Brits, as so often seen in self-righteous anti-colonialist literature, but also shows how the indigenous people on a human and inhuman scale dealt with their own problems. It is a dour story but shows great insight, much in the way that Huxley's "Burmese Days" did.
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on 2 June 2015
Sceptical at first but grew very much into its flavour.
To those who have travelled and lived among people of differing races it is an essential read.
Indigenous cultures are to be valued as they can teach westerners more than a thing or two!
It is not surprising that it was used by the education establishment as a text book.
Will look at further reading of this author
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on 17 July 2015
This is such an unhappy story about a village in Sri Lanka and all that goes wrong for the good but poor people and it goes very, very wrong, that I could hardly bear it, yet it is a picture and I'm sure a true one from when Leonard Woolf was a Resident magistrate there. so one can reward it as a historical picture, but still a distressing one.
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on 14 July 2014
I live in Sri Lanka. This book is timeless and gives an extreme but accurate insight to the life here, especially the life of the poor and uneducated. it is as relevant today as when it was so empatheticaly written. A must read for anyone with an interest in the Island .
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on 25 June 2014
The friend for whom it was a present was thrilled, couldn't put it down, and she's a literature buff. I haven't yet read the second copy I bought but look forward to doing so.
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on 23 June 2014
I am really enjoying reading this book. I like his style of writing with a delightful way of describing things without appearing patronising.
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