Top positive review
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Memory and identity in the migrant experience
on 27 July 2009
Roma Tearne's third novel - like her first, Mosquito, which I also recommend - centres on a young woman, an aspiring artist, who initially learns about life, love and much else against a background of inter-racial violence in Sri Lanka. But when her beloved grandparents insist that Alice Fonseka's mother take the girl to England for her safety because of her mixed parentage, will she be any more secure there?
Brixton Beach is beautifully realised. Though Alice, her mother Sita and her grandfather Bee are the three chief protagonists, the author's use of multiple narrative points of view allows us to come to know much of the other characters' thoughts and feelings.
The book is awash with colour, whether it be the deep blue of the Ceylonese sea and the dazzling sunlight of Alice's childhood beach or the muted hues of London's buildings and temperate climate. Colour is mixed up with emotional clarity too, and Sita and Alice find that the memories they cling to in order to shape and maintain their view of themselves can also become a prison.
Is assimilation really possible, or even desirable? What does it mean to be born in one country and grow up in another; and what are the implications for British-born children of parents from far-off lands?
Richly detailed and moving, Brixton Beach is ultimately hard to put down.