I received this book as a gift from a friend of mine who picked it up for me on a trip home to Sri Lanka. He knew that I was trying to read more diversely, and I do believe this is possibly my first book by a Sri Lankan author.
“The Good Little Ceylonese Girl” by Ashok Ferrey is a collection of short stories about Sri Lanka and the Sri Lankan diaspora and named after one of the stories contained within. The stories range in location from Italy to England, from India to Somalia and are interconnected by the common threads of Sri Lankan heritage and otherness in a country not your own.
Ferrey is a perceptive and humorous writer who is fond of puns and the double entendre. His diverse life experience shines through in this multifaceted book and he expertly captures the voices of Sri Lankans from all kinds of socio-economic backgrounds. I particularly enjoyed the story that explores a same-sex inter-cultural relationship and the story set in Somalia. Ferrey explicitly discusses the impact of the Boxing Day Tsunami on the national consciousness with two stories. However, although the vast majority of his characters are living overseas, I found it interesting that Ferry doesn’t ever directly reference the Sri Lankan civil war (although I think as an Australian, a lot of his references went over my head, so perhaps he did in a more subtle way).
Although Ferrey is a strong writer, I did feel that his endings were a bit off-beat. The short story really excels on an ending of either extreme poignancy or an incredible twist, and I felt as though despite the fluid prose, a lot of the endings fell a bit flat. Despite Ferrey’s convincing voice in his many female characters, the vast majority of his stories seemed to hinge on women being underhanded in some way, be it by lying, stealing, poisoning or misleading. I found this a bit frustrating and sameish, and I thought his endings could have been a lot punchier than they were.
Nevertheless, a quick, intelligent and insightful read.