Swimming in the Monsoon Sea

 
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Age Range
12+
ISBN
0887767354
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Overall rating 
 
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Sri Lanka, 1980. Fourteen-year-old Amrith has pushed aside the painful memories of his mother's death and now leads a normal life in his aunt and uncle's household, but his long, lazy summer is thrown into a whirl when a cousin from Canada shows up on his doorstep. The more Amrith gets to know and like the older boy, the more unsettled he becomes, until he's caught helpless in a raging torrent of love, grief, guilt and jealousy. Forced to confront his difficult past and his uncertain future, Amrith emerges from the storm with fresh hope born from a hard-won new understanding of himself.

For a less talented writer, setting his novel in Sri Lanka in the 1980s might have risked alienating readers 25 years and half a world away, but Shyam Selvadurai gives such rich accounts of day to day life and such detailed descriptions of his main character's emotions that the difference brings out the sameness. He doesn't fall into the trap of making this coming-out novel a reductive, one-issue work either; it's a perfectly-paced, subtle and complex tale of growing up, finding one's place and learning to forgive and remember. Swimming in the Monsoon Sea is brilliant. Take a chance on it and you won't regret it.
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