By Roshi Fernando
(Knopf, Hardcover, 9780307958105, 288pp.)
Publication Date: July 17, 2012
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In this stunningly assured debut work of fiction, Roshi Fernando weaves together the lives of an extended Sri Lankan family.
At Victor and Nandini’s home in southeast London, the New Year’s Eve celebration is under way. Everyone is gathered around—clinking glasses of arrack and whisky, eating freshly fried poppadoms, listening to baila music—waiting to ring in 1983. Upstairs, The Godfather is playing on repeat for a bedroom filled with teenagers drunk on pilfered wine. And in the middle of it all is sixteen-year-old Preethi, tipsy on youth and friendship and covert cigarettes, desperate to belong.
But what does that mean, to belong? As Preethi moves through her life—befriending the local outcast, revealing her brother’s deepest secret, struggling with her own unhappiness and through a souring marriage—this desire for acceptance remains the one constant, both for her and for everyone she knows. Homesick moves back and forth in time, between London and Sri Lanka, circling the people in Preethi’s world: her brother Rohan; her friends Nil, Clare, Deirdre, and Lolly; her aunty Gertie; and terrible cousin Kumar. Together, they are bound by this shared need to fit in somewhere, this rootless desire for a place to call home.
Gorgeously drawn, told with wit and pathos, this poignant narrative blends love with loss, politics with pop culture, tradition with youthful rebellion. Homesick is rich with insight and a kaleidoscopic view of contemporary immigrant life that introduces us to the work of Roshi Fernando, a remarkable new talent.
Roshi Fernando grew up in southeast London and received her Ph.D. in creative writing from Swansea University. She was a finalist for the Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award in 2011. She lives in the Cotswolds with her family.
Praise from the UK:
“Roshi Fernando is a powerful new voice . . . [In Homesick,] charm, humour and poignancy alternate with dark trials . . . The book offers complex, mosaic characters and compelling storylines . . . Fernando’s insight, wit, sensitivity and versatility mark her as a striking new talent.”
—Leyla Sanai, The Independent
“Tender, uplifting and funny.”
—Sophie Martelli, The Observer
“It is notoriously difficult to capture an authentic immigrant voice. [Homesick] manage[s] it brilliantly . . . A debut that can confidently sit alongside the likes of Zadie Smith’s White Teeth and Andrea Levy’s Small Island. . . . [Homesick] address[es] the trials of marriage, the coming to terms with sexuality and the need to find an identity in terms that are universal to all.”
—Francesca Angelini, The Sunday Times
“Fernando’s observations are fresh and her style sharp. She can recreate a whole childhood’s worth of low-key resentment in a couple of lines . . . Fernando is serious but never earnest; her compassion for her misguided characters is infectious, and the book leaves you with an uplifting glow.”
—Jake Kerridge, Literary Review
“Exuberant . . . A rambunctious portrait of an extended Sri Lankan family in south London . . . as addictive as any full-length book by Vikram Seth or Michael Ondaatje.”
—Arminta Wallace, The Irish Times
“Everyone in Homesick seeks to belong—to a place, a community—and Fernando portrays their plight with a tenderness that extends to the very structure of [her book] . . . Home, in Fernando’s world, is not a resting place, but rather the dream of a ritual, both inherited and of our own invention.”
—Emily Stokes, Financial Times