Nayomi Munaweera has the ability to keep drawing you in, lulling you into a false sense of security where you think everything is going to be okay, and then it isn’t. The beautiful description of the seemingly idyllic childhood in Sri Lanka quickly gives way to one of those passages that I can only describe by how it happened in my head as I read it: ‘Hang on, did I just read that right…let me go back and…oh god…oh god no.” This happened several times as I worked my way through time, through her childhood and into adulthood, repeatedly thinking things might work out only to be shocked into reality.
The main character remains unnamed until the end of the novel and in a way I felt like I never got to know her, whilst at the same time experiencing all the emotions and confusion she does at the circumstances of her life. I felt as lost and floundering as the main character often felt, unsure if I could trust her memories or the people around her.
What Lies Between Us explores the way in which memory effects our life and interacts with our present. It draws out how the past, even if long distant and buried deep, can still shake the foundations of our happier times and destroy the things which should be able to offer us some relief. At times brutal but always delicately written this novel is outstanding and definitely worth exploring.
Reading Guapa means spending 24 hours in the life of Resa, a gay man living in an unnamed Arab country, as he reflects on the immediate trauma and past events of his life. The stories of his father’s death, his mother’s departure, and his difficult relationships with friends and lovers, are interwoven through a tale of his struggle to discover his place in the world. This novel delivers so much more than it promises, delving deep into Resa’s mind to explore issues of marginalisation within every community Resa tries to discover an identity for himself. Resa struggles to find somewhere that he belongs and is on a constant search to find meaning in the definitions that other people put onto him, based on his nationality, sexuality, religion (or lack of).
This is an amazing novel that explores complex issues in a delicate and sensitive way, bringing them to life through vivid characters and an evocative landscape. I found myself nervous before the ending, worrying what Resa was going to do and what would happen to him. I wondered how he would react at the wedding and if it would destroy him. Being able to see through a small window in to a world that I’m not a part of was exhilarating and terrifying in equal measures, as I found myself wanting to argue with almost everyone Resa came into contact with.
I can find no words within me to describe how achingly beautiful and heartbreaking this book is. At times an uplifting tribute filled with love, it also abounds with despair at the pointlessness of the ravages of AIDS, at a time when people little understood the illness, nor did they want to unless directly affected by it. I don’t believe I have ever read a more beautiful love story. While ultimately describing the end of a love as one partner dies, leaving the other faced with a future not only alone but also filled with the possibility of dying in a similar fashion; this exquisitely written book also manages to fill you with a feeling that, yes, there is such a thing as an ultimate love that exists in purity and simplicity, for no other reason than the joy of enjoying that love with another who loves you. This belief ultimately makes it heartbreaking when the inevitable death of Paul’s lover, who he refers to as his best friend, Roger, happens in the last chapter.
I wouldn’t recommend this book to you as a good read that you should experience just for being well written. I would implore everyone to read this for the vital lessons it will impart on you, about passionate love, decline and death. An amazing work!