Monday, March 16, 2015

Saved In Sri Lanka - Devika Fernando

Book Review - Deepti Menon

                                                                 

 How can you not fall in love with a heroine with the romantic name, Sepalika, a name that she shares with the night jasmine, a flower that is fragrant, magical and fascinating? Daniel Byrne cannot keep his eyes away from the exotic beauty, who also happens to be his tour guide, a job she loves because it “involved being in touch with people from all walks of life.” Initially he is “a silent brooding riddle of an Irishman” who stays at the sidelines, but once he realizes the amount of local knowledge Sepalika possesses, he finds himself looking forward to being with her all the time.
Sepalika has spent five years in London, thrilled because “her mind and heart belonged to countries where a woman had the right to say no, to be herself, and to live.”  She returns to Sri Lanka for private reasons, and hence, finds it difficult to take in the ugly side of the country – corruption, politics, deceit and crime. However, she has shackles tying her down to the place, and she wills herself to say, “But the past should stay in the past. I can’t and I won’t go back.”
Her father is suffering from a chronic kidney disease, and when his former boss’ son, Mahesh, takes a liking to Sepalika, his father agrees to pay for her father’s treatment. She is hustled into an engagement to a man with whom she has nothing in common. 
Daniel too has his share of bitterness to combat, but as they are thrown together in the beautiful sights of Sri Lanka, the two find themselves attracted to each other. She is like “a moth drawn to the light,” while he finds that he has lost his heart to a forbidden flower, Sepalika , with her perfect name.
Is this just a fling, a one night stand, she wonders. Is she only “another exotic memory, an experience he might connect to some historical fact or other?” Daniel is incensed when he realizes that she is engaged to Mahesh, and storms out of her life, leaving her bereft, for “he knew her mind and owned her heart.” Is that the end of their tender love story that showed such promise?
Devika Fernando is an outstanding writer of romance, as she creates a love tapestry with words, both tempestuous and gentle, with all its ups and downs. Her situations, and the emotions that run through them, are all too real. Daniel with his “polished cheekbones you could cut yourself on” comes across as “a mysterious, history-loving, introverted red-head from Ireland”, but over the pages he reveals his chivalrous, often mischievous side as well. It is no wonder that Sepalika loses her vulnerable heart to him, drawn towards him, until the moment when she realizes that she is fettered to her fate.
Devika could as well have been a chronicler of history as well, so beautifully does she describe the wonderful sights of her country. Her chapters are aptly named after the various cities the tour group travel across – the Elephant Orphanage in Pinnawala, the Lion’s Rock in Sigiriya with its Mirror Wall, the Golden Temple of Dambulla with its 100 feet tall Golden Buddha, the Yala National Park whose King is the leopard, the Kande Vihare Buddhist temple, which houses the tallest statue of Buddha in Sri Lanka and many such marvels. 


                              The Elephant Orphanage at Pinnawala - Photo courtesy: Devika Fernando

                                                                                   

                                                     
                              The Golden Buddha of Dambulla  - Photo courtesy: Devika Fernando     


There are two spots of special interest to Indian readers – the Hagkala Botanical garden where it is believed that Ravana hid Sita away from prying eyes, and the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi tree which was nurtured from the original tree at Bodh Gaya, a branch of which was brought to Sri Lanka by Sangamitta, Emperor Ashoka’s daughter in the 3rd century BC.
Thus, ‘Saved in Sri Lanka’ is a riveting read that captivates even as it informs. 

Verdict: A gentle read that leaves the heart in bliss! 


                                              The petite writer herself - Devika Fernando at Colombo 
                                                           Photo courtesy: Devika Fernando

3 comments:

  1. I'm overjoyed! This is a wonderful review that makes me very glad that I followed my dream and became a romance novelist.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Devika, I am even more overjoyed that I was given a chance to read your delightfully romantic novel! May you write many more! Bless you!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Love your review Deepti :D And I agree

    ReplyDelete