Serendipity by Ashok Ferrey
16 March, 2010
I wasn’t really sure about writing this review. I really enjoyed Ferrey’s two previous volumes of short stories, Colpetty People and The Good Little Ceylonese Girl, with their witty observations of people from the countries in which Ferrey lived before returning to Sri Lanka 20 years ago. And of course the infamous Colombo crowd. Ferrey’s prose is engaging, clever and colourful with frequent use of the local lingo.
Ferrey describes his first novel Serendipity as a collection of loosely connected short stories. We meet various characters from Piyumi, the lawyer from London who returns to Sri Lanka after failing in her career and love, Marek, the Polish builder who leaves his mother, and his father’s house which is being sold off in pieces, for a new job as a teacher in Colombo, to Debs the gay NGO worker. And we can’t forget the politicians scrambling to the top of the dung heap of Sri Lankan politics (including a character named Fonseka whom Ferrey vehemently denies was deliberate – and what a serendipitous coincidence since the Sri Lankan elections were just announced when the book was published.)
There are several plot points from a suspicious insurgent group plotting attacks from a London newsagents, a tuk-tuk driver trying to make his way out of his slummy existance and the fate of Serendipity, Piyumi’s ancestral home, which her relatives who all live abroad want to sell off.
The book is well written and Ferrey has a certain way with words that is very slick. Maybe even a little too clever, but that’s never a bad thing. It’s just that I didn’t really respond to Piyumi. I couldn’t understand her choices and I couldn’t sympathise with all the awful things that happened to her. However I did like Marek and his heartbreaking naiveté. Maybe some of the characters were too outlandish for me, I’m not sure. And the ending wasn’t one that I expected (which isn’t a bad thing either, but it wasn’t what I was looking for) and left me wanting more.
At the GLF 2010, Ferrey did a reading of Seredipity with some of his friends and it was a colourful experience which brought his novel alive.
Sometimes a book just doesn’t resonate with what you are looking for, and this one didn’t as much as his short stories. But I’m certainly looking forward to his next one.
I read this as part of the South Asian Author Challenge.