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Brixton Beach
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on 14 May 2012
Clearly from other reviews, this book is a bit of a Marmite thing. Many readers love it, but I'm afraid it left a bad taste in my mouth. Having created a bunch of characters, the author seems to have spent a lot of time imagining the worst possible outcomes for them. A baby dies at birth, a husband is brutally attacked, a beloved child is snatched and murdererd, and an elderly couple butchered at their own home. And there's much more ... Many readers have found the writing beautiful, and I did enjoy some lyrical descriptions. It is also illuminating to find out about just how terrible the conflict in Sri Lanka was at the time. However, I also agree with the reviewer who said the ending is 'a deus ex machina of the worst sort', as it only serves to confirm the thrust of the plot - that 'life's a bitch and then you die.' Alice's late love affair with Simon the surgeon feels a bit contrived and over-written and it seems to arrive as something of a non-sequitur - unless it is another deliberate evocation of the randomness of fate. I admit the child Alice is enchanting and well-realised, but I feel she grows more and more sketchy as the novel moves on. I was mourning the loss of the 9 year old Alice long before the horribly inevitable finale. My advice would be to see how you feel after reading a few chapters - if you're not keen, save yourself a lot of misery and leave it there.
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VINE VOICEon 21 June 2013
You know how you know whether or not you are going to enjoy a book as soon as you read the first couple of chapters? Well, with this book, I knew it was going to be good.
The first chapter is the immediate aftermath of the 7/7 bombings, with us following a surgeon who is trying to cope with the confusion around the bus remains. The next chapter then goes back in time to a girls ninth birthday party in Sri Lanka where there are huge political problems and riots which we see through a child's innocent eyes. The book is written in the third person though and there is amazing description of the beautiful surroundings in which Alice lives.
The first half of the book stays on the island using the family to show the core of the country's problems. We know that Alice is going to go to England and I felt that the story needed to speed up to get her there, although I enjoyed the rich language at the same time.
The second half of the book in England showed lots of the problems of moving to a new country in a very contemplative way. It was interesting to read even though at times it seemed as though there was too much packed into less than 200 pages.
The richness of the language seemed to demand that this book is read slowly and it will stay with me for some time.
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on 21 November 2010
This is principally the story of Alice, born in Sri Lanka and taken by her parents to Britain at the age of 9. Like Roma Tearne herself, Alice is of mixed race, with a Tamil father and a Sinhalese mother. Brixton Beach, however, is a true work of fiction and not a fictionalized autobiography.

The story is told against the background of racial violence which has afflicted Sri Lanka since 1958. Roma Tearne as a writer is ostracized in her native land. "Brixton Beach" is sold in only one bookshop in Sri Lanka, one catering mainly to foreign tourists. No newspaper in Sri Lanka has reviewed any of Tearne's four novels.

The most important person in Alice's life is her grandfather Benjamin, whom everyone calls "Bee". Bee lives in an idyllic beach-side location in Sri Lanka where Alice experiences the happiest days of her life. From Bee, Alice learns to be a painter and sculptor. Her separation from her grandfather at the age of 9 is a terrible wrench, but the images of the beach in Sri Lanka and the associated emotions are forever imprinted on her psyche and are eventually transplanted in Brixton, hence the title.

During their last year in Sri Lanka, Alice's mother Sita loses her baby in childbirth in a horrific episode of deliberate neglect. This part of the book is painful to read but is an essential part of the story. Sita's experience leaves her a life-long emotional cripple, and the drama of the book is in seeing how Alice survives as a person after having effectively lost the two most important people in her life.

In the final part of the book we see in descriptions of Alice's painting and sculpture ingenious and startling images of redemption. No other writer has recorded so faithfully or with such compassion a bleak period in the history of the beautiful island of Sri Lanka, and the character of Alice is one of the most memorable in modern fiction.
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on 11 October 2010
While the novel's opening is very arresting, and the descriptions of Sri Lankan life and the conflict's impact on those involved are very well observed, I felt the book was spoiled by its contrived ending. The problems begin with the arrival of Simon, whom I found to be emotionally stunted and unsympathetic - with all that time spent in his room listening to Tosca and mooning over lost opportunities in his youth, as well as being generally useless, it's no wonder his wife dislikes him! Considering the background of her father's betrayal of his family (which Tearne omits to reference), I also found it hard to imagine what the normally empathetic Alice saw in him. Certainly, the author deals with his desertion of his family very matter of factly. All in all, he is very self absorbed and I found this hard to like - he wasn't exactly deserving of the heroine and the far more suitable Janake was dismissed as quickly as Tessa. It's a shame - as a writer, Tearne is highly descriptive and evocative. But I felt the ending was rushed.
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on 20 June 2017
amazing book have told all my friends to read it. What a superb writer she paints the most wonderful evocative pictures of Sri Lanka coupled with heartfelt tragedy. I loved it although it left me sobbing. Mary Hooper
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on 15 September 2015
A magnificent read! Sad, I learnt so much about Sri Lankan policics and the havoc war has left in its wake. She writes so well and I could not put this book down.
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on 5 June 2013
A book club choice, so I'm not sure I would have chosen to read this otherwise, but it is interesting and I am looking forward to finishing it.
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on 27 February 2015
A brilliant read you can just imagion the beauty of Ceylon and feel the pain of the family over the decades.loved it.
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on 19 January 2014
Bought on a recommendation by a friend. Well written and it keeps you engrossed. The background to the story has some significance to my family so I could relate to a lot of the story....be warned you will need tissues!
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on 26 December 2012
Told from the perspective of a young girl uprooted from her home in picturesque Ceylon, this is a good story which has a number of twists and changing relationships before it reaches its climax in modern London.
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