Amma by Saraid de Silva - review by Sana Goyal

Sana Goyal

Under the Banyan Tree

Amma

By

Weatherglass Books 275pp £12.99
 

Saraid de Silva’s masterful debut opens with three life-changing events in the lives of Josephina, her daughter, Sithara, and her granddaughter, Annie. The novel follows the Fernando family from 1951 to 1984 to 2018, and from Singapore to Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Australia and England. It’s a tale of secrets and fractures and absences, and of how, with each new landscape and generation, things shift. Though the title translates as ‘mother’, it’s the relationships between grandmothers and granddaughters that are at the heart of the novel.

Amma touches on sexual and racial violence, age-old traditions and strongly held beliefs within South Asian families, diaspora communities (‘Josephina tossed Singapore over her shoulder like a used tissue’), alienation and absence. But de Silva has a light touch and never slips into sentimentality. The novel’s strength lies in its

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