‘A Little Dust on the Eyes’ is an extraordinary novel. The blurb describes it as ‘haunting and richly textured’ and so it is. The writing is very visual – images have stayed with me, like the one from the first page where one of the protagonists of the novel, Savi, watches a friend walk away with her child, ‘the pale face of the child, slumped over Hannah’s shoulder, and the small star of her hand as she waved goodbye.’ It is haunting too in the losses it describes. Savi has lost both parents and her home; her father sends her to England to be educated after her mother’s death, saying it is ‘for the best,’ whatever that means to an 11-year old child... Her cousin Renu grows up in the violence of the war in Sri Lanka, ‘in a time of silence… when it was not what was said, but what was left unspoken that carried the burden of truth.’ She collects newspaper accounts of the violence and the disappearances in an attempt to find connections, to produce an account of what is happening in her world. While Savi studies Sri Lankan myth in England, Renu tries to study Sri Lankan fact in Sri Lanka. And then comes the tsunami of 26 December 2004... This is a novel which asks to be read more than once. The richness of the prose, the complexity of the tragedies it deals with and the difficulties of narrating them can’t be fully grasped, I think, in only one reading. I've bought more copies as Christmas presents for family and friends so I can discuss it with other people!
This wonderful book succinctly posits the postmodern subject within a narrative which is at once funny and moving, thoughtful and passionate. The reader bears witness to an individual struggling with her own sense of diasporic identity, to political crisis in Sri Lanka, the difficulty of negotiating trauma and the fundamental question of family. Salgado asks what it means to belong, revealing the ways in which we are written and why it is so important to write back.
A Little Dust on the Eyes is a beautifully realised exploration of departure, dislocation and return. Set during the violence and distrust of the Sri Lankan civil war, it perfectly captures, with restraint and feeling, the personal impact of such damaging events. The prose is subtle, poetic and thoroughly readable. Highly recommended!
This was a captivating reading experience from start to finish. As a fan of Michael Ondaatje's work, I found A Little Dust on the Eyes an intriguing counterpoint to Anil's Ghost. Like Ondaatje, Salgado is preoccupied with the entanglements of love, loss, trauma, nation and memory. A Little Dust on the Eyes' treatment of these concerns, however, has a singularity of style and eloquence of approach that sets it apart from many novels, debut or otherwise. From the first page to the last, I was struck by Salgado's nuanced rendering of a politics and language of touch. This connects the seemingly disparate spaces of South England and Sri Lanka in always engaged and engaging ways. Having read a good number of 'postcolonial diasporic' texts, I'm often left with the feeling that authors are going through the motions - adhering to those tried, and somewhat tired methods that make them indistinguishable from a host of others. As with the reviewer above, however, I finished A Little Dust on the Eyes wanting more - a sure sign of a genuinely effective and affective literary encounter. The formal and thematic particularities of the novel stayed with me long after I returned it to my bookshelf. I look forward to revisiting it again and again as I wait for more from this singularly compelling author.
I was given this book for Christmas, and finished it on Boxing Day. I was captivated by the characters, drawn into their stories, and delighted by the poetic yet trenchant descriptions of people and place. As the other reviewers have mentioned, this is certainly a book that I will read again just for the pure pleasure of the language. Well done, Ms. Salgado, and please write more!
This novel is beautifully, subtly written and compelling to read. Its female protagonists are well-developed and interesting, but not at all predictable. The writing gives voice to the complexities of living through the Sri Lankan civil war and the complicities ordinary people are drawn into, long before the devastation of the tsunami. Minoli Salgado has rendered the gravity of compound disaster with great sensitivity, and the novel stayed with me long after I finished reading it. Highly recommended.