BOOK REVIEW: Romesh Gunesekera: Noontide Toll

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Out now
Published by Granta
More information can be found on the Granta Books website []

Review by Gabriel Brown

While Noontide Toll is definitely interesting, I had trouble getting stuck into it.

The main focus is on the story of a van driver which, I believe, is the best way to explore a post-war scenario. It gives all sorts of different views and introduces new people every chapter. However, this is one of the book’s problems.

Every chapter there is a new group of people. In some ways this is good, as I always like to learn more about other people’s perspectives. However, it can be bad. I actually want to find out more about the subject of each chapter. What happened when the chapter ended? How is the main character, Vasantha, suddenly here when he was there? This is something that stopped me from enjoying the book as much as I’d hoped I would. It jumped around too much.

That being said, it does explore the things it touches upon well and manages to paint an interesting picture of post-war Sri Lanka. It also combines the people’s views and Vasantha’s opinions in a very unique and detailed way.

However, in other instances, the book trails off and talks about things that, in my opinion, do not contribute to the amazing picture we should be presented with, or truly explain the traumas of the past that we should be haunted by.

As mentioned earlier, if you need a character to explore a country and see its various aspects, a van driver is an excellent choice. This is what makes up for the book’s flaws, as the main character has his own interesting views of everything, including the civil war.

This is expressed best in the final chapter, when Vasantha is by himself and thinking freely. This is when everything I was hoping for takes hold and we learn more about the post-war setting. I cannot deny that this book is well written with brilliant descriptions, which does help the book a lot.

Overall, this book will be greatly enjoyed by some for its unique style but, in the case of people like me, it will leave them feeling like this book has slightly missed out on a interesting writing perspective and opportunity.

Gabriel Brown is a Reviewer in Residence at Durham Book Festival.

Reviewers in Residence is a Cuckoo Young Writers programme ,which allows young critics to develop an in-depth relationship with a venue or art form, and take part in exclusively tailored writing masterclasses.