The exquisiteness of Bone China, a novel by Roma Tearne

by Roma Tearne

Bone China by Roma Tearne has been called by The Times “a rich family saga that seizes the mind”.  The Times was right! I was personally drawn to this book as it centred around a Sri Lankan family living in the tumultuous times of the civil war, moving to England to escape it all.  I wanted to relate to it on a cultural level, and I did.  It took me a couple of chapters to really get into this book, but when I did I had found my thirst for reading.  I devoured the pages, engrossed in the de Silva’s saga and coming up for air ever once in a while, sipping my pumpkin spiced latte from Starbucks.  I scribbled furiously in my notebook as ideas just flowed and flowed. Upon re-reading my notes this morning, one paragraph really stuck out.  I’ve included it below:

“I feel, – upon reading further and further, ensnared in the events as they unfold -, like I’m bursting at the seams, brimming with emotions and ideas I want to share with the world.  But with the risk of this post turning into an essay, I have unwillingly restrained myself.  Perhaps I will break up this post, separating and piecing together all these emotions, symbolism and themes that are emerging before my very eyes.  At this point, I am furiously recording everything I feel, all the ideas and thoughts that pop into my mind with a borrowed pen from Starbucks.  As you can imagine, I am severely hindering myself, my own mind stopping the completion of this rich novel”

Reflecting back, I was really in a fervour to finish and I think that people must have thought I was crazy as I was writing and reading like a mad woman!  I was laughing at the funny moments, shocked when the plot took sudden twists, and tears threatened to spill while reading the sad moments.

The horrors of the civil war in Sri Lanka and its impact on the de Silva family was apparent.  Grace and Aloysius de Silva benefited from the British rule, but when the British left, they were left in ruin.   They were a dysfunctional family, but they crumbled when they went their separate ways: “They were in need of cherishing but this too was no longer available, and their likelihood of their recovery from such a brutal uprooting was a sad illusion” (pg. 179).  This quote foreshadows the years of doom and gloom the civil war will bring throughout the novel.  In fact, later on in the novel Sri Lanka is called a “poisoned paradise”.

“He saw what no one else did: that a mantle of despair was settling like fine grey dust on the distant island, clogging the air, blotting out its brilliance and choking its people.  And, as the dense rainforests turned slowly into pockets of ruins, and the last remnants of peace began to vanish, it seemed to those who loved the place that the dazzling colours of paradise would never be seen again” – pg. 165

The relationship between Anna-Meeka and her grandmother Grace tugged at my heart-strings.  Even though I did not have the same family situation as the de Silvas, I did relate to the physical similarities and cultural differences between Meeka and her grandmother.  I definitely felt tears prick my eyes when Meeka was reading Grace’s letters to her, reminding Meeka of the happiness she had felt in Sri Lanka with her grandmother, (her “other life” as Meeka would like to call it).  It reminded me of my relationship with my late grandmother, my mom’s “mummy”.  I was separated from her when I moved to Canada at the tender age of 5.  I remember how much I longed to have her with me, and how much I long to see her now even after her passing.  The last memory I have of her was sitting on her bed in our Columbo house among her rich yet simple saris, under the gentle whirring of the ceiling fan.  It is a gorgeous memory that I never want to let go.  Meeka’s uncles and aunts always commented on her striking resemblance to her grandmother, and these comments reminded me of my family members who have often made that remark about me and my grandmother.

As you can see, this novel definitely hit home for me.  I enjoyed this novel a lot and I hope that this novel will grace more bed side tables and purses because it truly is a spectacular read.

Tearne, Roma.  Bone China.  Great Britain: HarperPress, 2008. Print


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