A beautiful story about 2 gentle souls who find each other in the midst of attempting to navigate the landscape of a country far from home, where everything seems strange. They instantly recognise in each other a familiarity and comfort, while at the same time realising that their relationship is one that will not meet with approval in the eyes of those who matter to them.
Jaya decides to leave her home in a Sri Lankan village when it is no longer a safe haven for her. A terrible bus accident offers her an opportunity that she never thought she’d receive, and in a split second, she decides to grab it. And so, she becomes Soma and travels to England to become the nanny to Yamuna and Bim’s baby boy Louis. They want their baby to have a nanny who can talk to him in the language of their birthplace, Sri-Lanka, so Soma has been hired to look after him and teach him Sinhalese while they continue to converse mainly in the English that they’ve become more accustomed to.
As Soma settles into her new life, she realises there are many things she didn’t take into account when she suddenly decided to take on someone else’s life. It takes quite some time for her to adjust to the new country she’s living in; the new culture, foods, customs and most of all, remembering to answer to a new name! One of the biggest things she didn’t count on was meeting her employee’s lovely cousin Sahan and finding that she could possibly be developing feelings for him!
Sahan, despite having lived in England for a few years already is still slightly uncomfortable there. He just can’t get used to the relaxed way that other young people of his age are able to interact. They don’t understand him, and he certainly doesn’t understand them. But when he sees Soma for the first time, he knows instantly that he’s spotted a kindred spirit. However, it’s complicated. She works for his cousin as a nanny! His parents back home have his entire life mapped out for him, including the fact that nothing he does should ever embarrass them and his father’s political aspirations. So in the beginning he conspires to try and see Soma as much as possible under the guise of teaching her English – but in secret.
I loved this book, and the genuine innocence of Soma and Sahan who had been brought up in a seemingly completely different stratosphere to the one they now found themselves in, but who were attempting, against all odds, to make the most of the hand that life had dealt them. The author artfully displays this in sharp contrast to the casual way most young adults deal with relationships today.
But this book is not only a charming love story. It also examines the complexities of the relationship between Yamuna and Bim, whose marriage was arranged. They have a child together and view life as something that they just need to get on with. They don’t really connect and they don’t exactly think about whether they should or shouldn’t – nobody ever offered them any guidance as to how their married life would be after they were paired up, so they have no understanding of how their communication should work. So on a different level to Soma and Sahan, the 2 relationships are actually quite similar.
Jeevani Charika (also known by her pen name, Rhoda Baxter) has created such soulful characters that they make reading this book an absolute pleasure. I just wanted to immerse myself in it as I got to know them better: Soma, whose shy wariness conceals her innate wisdom, strong, dedicated Sahan and Yamuna, whose tough exterior hides her warm and caring heart.
This is a heart-warming 5 star read.
Thank you to Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers for inviting me along on the blog tour. Go and look at what other bloggers have to say about This Stolen Life …