Ruins
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Ruins

Rajith Savanadasa

In the bustling streets, overcrowded hospitals and glittering nightclubs of Colombo, five family members find their bonds stretched to breaking point in the aftermath of the Sri Lankan civil war.

Latha, the family’s servant of two decades, questions her allegiances following the tragic death of her nephew…

Anoushka, a sixteen-year-old high-school student, tries to win back a friend while keeping her punk-rock credentials hidden from her parents…

Lakshmi, a proud matriarch, is haunted by images of missing boys while struggling with the selfish disregard of her own children…

Niranjan, recently returned from Australia, is ready to get his start-up off the ground but keeps getting distracted by stoner friends and petty squabbles…

And Mano, the head of the family, feels increasingly impotent under the pressure of government intimidation and his wife’s scorn…

As the five leave Colombo to travel to an ancient city, the generations collide and long-held prejudices are revealed. For this family, with one foot in the old way of life and one firmly in the new, nothing can ever be what it once was.

Review

Set in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Rajith Savanadasa’s debut novel Ruins is a sweeping family saga that looks at class, wealth, gender, intergenerational conflict, cultural conflict, politics and more. It follows the fortunes and misfortunes of a family, with each chapter narrated by one of the five central characters in the household.

Mano and Lakshmi are the patriarch and matriarch, and their marriage has grown strained. Mano is under increasing pressure at his workplace, and he’s tired of trying to keep everyone in his family happy. Mano’s wife Lakshmi is affected by the Sri Lankan civil war and the fate of a missing Tamil boy, and feels isolated and misunderstood by her family. Their two children  – Anoushka and Niranjan  – are both grappling with traditions and cultural beliefs that they find restrictive, and struggling to figure out who they are and who they want to be. The book’s fifth voice belongs to Latha, the family’s long-suffering servant, who is torn between loyalty to the family she works for and the family she left behind in her hometown.

This is a book bursting with plot and drama. It’s a genuine page-turner, filled with deeply flawed, interesting characters who I kept thinking about (and worrying about) long after reading the final page. Ruins stands out from other Australian debuts for its ambitious structure, its vibrant setting, and the depth and complexity of the Sri Lankan family at the centre of the story. Highly recommended.


Nina Kenwood is the marketing manager for Readings.

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