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Booker Longlist 2021 – A Passage North

A Passage North

Book 6– Read and reviewed by Tracy, Susie & BookWorm

Synopsis from Booker Prize website:  A Passage North begins with a message from out of the blue: a telephone call informing Krishan that his grandmother’s caretaker, Rani, has died under unexpected circumstances — found at the bottom of a well in her village in the north, her neck broken by the fall. The news arrives on the heels of an email from Anjum, an impassioned yet aloof activist Krishnan fell in love with years before while living in Delhi, stirring old memories and desires from a world he left behind.

As Krishan makes the long journey by train from Colombo into the war-torn Northern Province for Rani’s funeral, so begins an astonishing passage into the innermost reaches of a country. At once a powerful meditation on absence and longing, and an unsparing account of the legacy of Sri Lanka’s thirty-year civil war, this procession to a pyre ‘at the end of the earth’ lays bare the imprints of an island’s past, the unattainable distances between who we are and what we seek.

Written with precision and grace, Anuk Arudpragasam’s masterful new novel is an attempt to come to terms with life in the wake of devastation, and a poignant memorial for those lost and those still alive.

Anuk Arudpragasam is a Sri Lankan Tamil novelist. He studied philosophy in the United States, receiving a doctorate at Columbia University. His first novel, The Story of a Brief Marriage, was translated into seven languages, won the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, and was shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize.

Tracy’s Thoughts:  This was a beautifully written meditation on loss, and a memorial to those who have come before. At the same time, it reflects a history of Sri Lanka that very few outside of that part of the world are aware of.

The premise is simple: a man goes on a train ride and remembers and reflects as he travels north to a funeral. It is as easy for the reader to get lost in his meditations as it was for him.

The trope isn’t original- meditation, memory, loss and history are common themes. And there is no plot to speak of. But the writing!

Writing quality: 5/5
Originality: 3/5
Character development: 4/4
Plot: 2/4
Enjoyment: 2/2
Total: 16/20

Susie’s Thoughts: I kicked off my experience of A Passage North thinking it was going to be superb. The beautifully long sentences really appealed to me, and the first part of the novel was emotive and spectacular. Alas, it didn’t stay that way, and I soon found the plot meandered toward a place where I just couldn’t engage and it eventually became a struggle to complete. I will point out that I was unable to give the novel large chunks of time, and I don’t think it’s structure lends itself to reading in snippets, so take my thoughts with a grain of salt.

Writing quality: 3.5/5
Originality: 4/5
Character development: 3/4
Plot development: 2/4
Overall enjoyment:1/2
Total: 13.5/20

BookWorm’s Thoughts:  I am sorry to say but this book just wasn’t for me. I found my mind wandering as our narrator got lost in yet another differing train of thought and the history lessons while interesting were completely jarring as it didn’t seem as if the author had made any attempt to fit them into the narrative in a cohesive way.

That said I did enjoy learning about Rani about why she would choose ECT and all the different rites and ceremonial celebrations that follow a traditional funeral.

Writing quality: 3/5
Originality: 3/5
Character development: 3/4
Plot development: 2/4
Overall enjoyment: 1/2
Total: 12/20

Rankings so far
Bewilderment 19.25/20
No one is Talking about This 16.83
Second Place 16
A Passage North 13.83
Klara and the Sun 13.3
China Room 13.1

What are your thoughts on this one?

One Comment Post a comment
  1. It was a DNF for me, but I kind of think it might make the shortlist

    Like

    August 25, 2021

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