Saturday 23 September 2023
16:00 to 17:00
South Asia

Welcoming library members to our monthly book club to meet and talk virtually with our renowned Author Romesh Gunesekera. We will discuss his books in our Physical libraries and in our Digital Library, share stories, and connect with people across cultures and different backgrounds. The book club is free and open to all members of 18 years and above.

Romesh Gunesekera is a Sri Lankan-born British author, internationally acclaimed for fiction that explores key themes of our times – political, ecological, economic - through novels and stories of wide appeal. His first book, Monkfish Moon, a collection of short stories reflecting the ethnic and political tensions that have threatened Sri Lanka since independence in 1948, was published in 1992, and was shortlisted for several prizes and became a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. His novel Reef was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1994, a rare distinction for a first novel at the time.

Romesh travels widely for festivals and to inspire new writers has run writing workshops around the world, which have featured in the top ten lists of the UK Sunday Times and the Telegraph. He has been a judge for a number of prestigious literary prizes and awards, such as the Caine Prize for African Writing, the Granta 2013 list of the Best of Young British Novelists, the Sunday Times/Audible short story prize. He was chair of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize in 2015, and Sri Lanka’s Gratiaen Prize 2023. In 2024 he will be judging the International Booker Prize. He is an elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and has received a National Honour in Sri Lanka in 2005. Romesh Gunesekera grew up in Sri Lanka, and the Philippines, and moved to England in 1971. He currently lives in London.

We have picked four of his stories to talk about:  

1. Reef – the story of Triton’s formative years, when he was a servant boy in a Colombo house where his employer Mister Salgado falls in love with Miss Nili. It is a transformative moment for all three of them. The story is mostly set in the early seventies at the brink of a watershed moment in Sri Lankan history. It also maps the environmental degradation of the coastline (Mister Salgado is a marine biologist) that has subsequently proved to have devastating consequences.

2. Suncatcher — a story of an endangered boyhood friendship between the magnetic but flawed Jay, who has an extraordinary affinity to the natural world, and Kairo who becomes his confused disciple in the turbulent sixties in Ceylon when family tensions test their loyalties.

3. Monkfish Moon — a collection of stories that trace the lives of Sri Lankan characters at home and abroad living through difficult times. Stories that chronicle a time and place that had not been focused on before.

4. The Prisoner of Paradise— a historical novel set in Mauritius in 1820s. It explores the little-known history of political prisoners and criminals sent from Ceylon to Mauritius by the British authorities, and people enslaved from India, before the migrations of indentured labour, to work on the sugar plantations. It is the story of the bond that develops between young Lucy Gladwell from England, living with her guardians, and Don Lambodar, a translator from Ceylon, as they navigate a society deeply hostile to their union.


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