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Booker Longlist 2022: The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka

The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka – reviewed by Tracy, Book Worm, Nicole, and Jen.

From the Booker Website: Shehan Karunatilaka’s rip-roaring epic is a searing, mordantly funny satire set amid the murderous mayhem of a Sri Lanka beset by civil war.

Colombo, 1990. Maali Almeida, war photographer, gambler and closet queen, has woken up dead in what seems like a celestial visa office. His dismembered body is sinking in the Beira Lake and he has no idea who killed him. At a time when scores are settled by death squads, suicide bombers and hired goons, the list of suspects is depressingly long.

But even in the afterlife, time is running out for Maali. He has seven moons to try and contact the man and woman he loves most and lead them to a hidden cache of photos that will rock Sri Lanka.

Tracy’s Thoughts: For me, this started out as a trainwreck- I almost DNF’ed it. But I’m glad I kept reading, because now it’s one of my favorites from the longlist.

One of the themes of this list this year seems to be a “you have to be there to get it” kind of vibe. This setting, in mid to late 20th Century Sri Lanka, among battles between different factions that are warring, it seems, just to war, fits the bill.

But it also fits in with the world today- with different political, ethnic, religious, and racial tensions working together and against each other everywhere- this is a moral tale for all times (also a theme for the longlist). I LOVED how the main character, whenever asked what group he was from, said he was SRI LANKAN.

There’s so much more to this story- colonialism, life after death, acceptance, grief, and so on, all wrapped up in a smart, witty story. I smell a shortlister!

Writing quality: 4/5
Originality: 5/5
Character development: 3.5/4
Plot: 3.5/4
Enjoyment: 2/2
Total: 18/20

BookWorms Thoughts: Well this is a book that really makes you think. I loved the way this was a kind of murder mystery played out after death with all the possible suspects and all the possible reasons for Maali to be killed. I really enjoyed the rules and regulations of the afterlife and the world building that took place there.

This story also provided me with an insight into a time and place I knew nothing about and that is one of the best things a work of fiction can do induce the reader to find out about real events.

Writing quality: 4/5
Originality: 3/5
Character development: 3/4
Plot development: 3/4
Overall enjoyment: 2/2
Total: 15/20

Nicole’s Thoughts: The strong books on this longlist are kicking butt for me, and this was a buttkicker. From the start I loved it, and I loved it the whole way through. Solid writing with moments of genius, there were an incredible number of clever turns of phrase. Witty, clever, dark, edgy, thought provoking, good vs evil, but what is good and what is evil?- all while educating many of us of the history of Sri Lanka. I found the setting both an original and ingenious way of telling the story. My 3rd 20/20 this booker season. I’ll be crushed if this doesn’t make the longlist.

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

Jen’s Thoughts: This year has been a strong list for me and I’ve found myself rating quite a few books higher than I had expected. I really enjoyed this book. I thought it was clever. Salman Rushdie is one of my favorite authors and this book had a similar sense of irreverence and magical realism as the kinds I have enjoyed in Rushdie’s books. I haven’t read much about Sri Lanka (outside of the Tamil Tigers) and the book inspired me to read more background history. It was beautifully written and a clever approach to thought provoking topics and the sheer enormity of the violence being described.

Writing quality: 5/5
Originality: 5/5
Character development: 3/4
Plot development: 4/4
Overall enjoyment: 2/2
Total: 19/20

Our panel’s current rankings:

  1. The Colony 18.8
  2. Maps of our Spectacular Bodies – 18.1
  3. The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida 18
  4. The Trees 16.4
  5. Oh William 15.6
  6. Small Things Like These 15.3
  7. Case Study 15
  8. Booth 13.7
  9. The Treacle Walker: 13
  10. Night crawling 11.08

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Should it make the shortlist?

One Comment Post a comment
  1. Our top 4 are my top 4 …. Not necessarily in that order. So strong that they don’t even feel like they belong in the same category as the rest

    Liked by 1 person

    August 31, 2022

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