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Brixton Beach

3.79  ·  Rating Details  ·  765 Ratings  ·  96 Reviews
London. On a bright July morning a series of bombs bring the capital to a halt. Simon Swann, a medic from one of the large teaching hospitals, is searching frantically amongst the chaos and the rubble. All around police sirens and ambulances are screaming but Simon does not hear. He is out of breath because he has been running, and he is distraught. But who is he looking f ...more
Paperback, 409 pages
Published 2010 by Harper Press (first published May 28th 2009)
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Stephen Clynes
Sep 19, 2011 Stephen Clynes rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The rear cover of this book reads...

When family tragedy strikes, Alice Fonseka, a dreamy, artistic child with a Singhalese mother and Tamil father, leaves the beautiful island of Sri Lanka. Unable to bear the injustice of what has happened, her family heads for England.

...That sounds promising I thought, a tale of an immigrant in London. Sadly Brixton Beach does not live up to it's promise. This novel is set half in Sri Lanka and half in London. This book was written in 2009 and has 408 pages. I
May 13, 2010 Tilly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The lasting impression you are left with after reading this book is, as most of the reviews suggest, how beautifully written it is.
Although the plotline is slow moving, the characters are rich and I found myself growing increasingly fond of Bea in particular as I turned the pages. Seeing his adoration of his grandaughter reminded me of my own grandfathers love for me and I would hope sparked recognition of this unique type of love in every reader, even if it wasn't neccesarily that of a grandpa
Sue Lyle
Nov 30, 2011 Sue Lyle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful but very sad book set in Sri Lanka and Brixton - I wept buckets.
Dec 30, 2010 Laurie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoy what one might call 'emigrant' (or 'immigrant') literature and decided to read this after hearing an interview with Roma Tearne on BBC Radio 4. I was not disappointed. The troubles in Sri Lanka (Ceylon) go back quite a way and, other than the war with the Tamil Tigers, are largely unknown and unacknowledged. Alice Fonseka is a child who straddles an unstraddle-able divide: her father is Tamil, her mother Sinhalese, so Alice and her sister are both and neither, an extremely uncomfortable ...more
Michael Moseley
Nov 18, 2012 Michael Moseley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
The location of this book was so meaningful having spent the Holiday with Nic at Mount Lavinia earlier this year. The poignant life of loss an regret was so painful and the ending so fitting of a person who having been whisked away from violence in her childhood to die by the sword or the hand of a terrorist was somehow so very cruel when you believed that she had perhaps found her peace and love at last. Sitting her writing this I almost forgot that Alice and her mother where not one person but ...more
Jan 28, 2010 Anne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Now a TV Book Club choice, what an excellent read this was! I've had a bit of an aversion recently to books set in the Indian sub-continent, but this one's revived my interest. You can really tell Roma Tearne's an artist because the descriptions of both Sri Lanka and London are incredibly vivid. Superb use of language, and some really well-drawn female characters - Alice is a joy both as child and grown-up. Grandfather Bee was a superb character, but have to say I did find the other male charact ...more
Megan Morgan
Aug 18, 2011 Megan Morgan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really good book, which was written beautifully.

Roma Tearne managed to use very few words but sent your mind spinning. Her powers of observation are quite unbelievable.

Although a sad tale from a very sad situation in Ceylon to gritty inner city London, this book just shines.

I suspect it is semi autobiographical, and the pathos within the story is huge.
Sue Hart
Feb 26, 2010 Sue Hart rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. I hadn't some across Roma Tearne before but I shall be reading her earlier two novels now. Beautiful writing - metaphors that show she thinks instinctively as an artist. The impact of war and the redemptive effect of art were cleverly woven throughout the story.
Rachel Wilce
Apr 13, 2014 Rachel Wilce rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another heartbreakingly sad but beautiful book from Roma Tearne. It had me smiling and crying in equal measure. The descriptions are so real you can see and smell them, the heartbreak and tragedy keeps coming, this book will stay with me for a long time.
Apr 06, 2010 poppyshake rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
This was a beautifully written book, telling the story of Alice Fonseka growing up in Sri Lanka with a Singhalese mother and a Tamil father. The war between the two sides strengthens and Alice's father Stanley applies for a passport to England ... Alice and her mother Sita will follow in three months leaving behind Alice's devoted Grandma and Grandad, Bee and Kamala.

The descriptions of Sri Lanka are so vivid you can almost taste the salty air and smell the coconut oil. England is drab, cold, gre
Jan 20, 2010 Ellen rated it liked it
I wanted to like this book more than I did as it has a lot of potential. Tearne has re-created both the beauty and desperateness of Sri Lanka in the 1970s -- colours, beaches -- and political upheaval. Her depiction of Sri Lanka is excellent, and she's able to contrast it with London well.

Where Tearne lets me down when it comes to characterisation. Some, such as Grandfather Bee, are fully developed, and I miss him when he's not in a chapter. However, others, such as Stanley, a rather significan
Dec 26, 2011 Philip rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Brixton Beach by Roma Tearne presents a vast project. Its story crosses the globe, beginning in Sri Lanka and ending in Britain. Great events befall its characters, but throughout their lives seem to be writ small against a backdrop of history.

The novel opens with an apt quote from Jack Kerouac – All life is a foreign country. This idea forms substantially more than a theme, in the no matter how secure the book’s characters might appear – and equally however insecure – they never really seem to
Jun 13, 2009 Anne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
`Brixton Beach' opens dramatically with the horrific events of the 2005 London bombings - a beginning that immediately pulled me into the novel. The descriptions of the after-math of the bombing are vividly drawn, quite disturbing and very thought-provoking.

The story then moves back thirty years to war-torn Ceylon - and concentrates on the story of Alice, the daughter of a Singhalese mother and a Tamil father. The major character in Alice's life is her grandfather Bee - a strong, brave man with
Jennifer Ramsden
Oh my gosh, what a vibrant, stimulating start to the book. You can practically smell the sea in the pages! Alice is very much alive and part of your world. However, in the second half she is a stranger. It feels as though another author has finished the second half. This broke my heart more than the story.
May 30, 2011 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rebecca Jane
Dec 06, 2015 Rebecca Jane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Having recently travelled to Sri Lanka,this book took me straight back into the humidity, lushness and beauty of that country. Whilst travelling I knew little of the conflict between the Tamils and Sinhalese, until I read Brixton Beach; wishing I had read it along my journey. Ms Tearne is a writer I wish to emulate, her gift of taking the reader into the depths of her experience, losing them in the characters, and bringing attention to the world, an act of terrorism that few know about. Loved it ...more
Jun 30, 2015 Les rated it really liked it
A moving tale of displacement, community dissension and kinship. The novel isn't flawless but has enough of a grip on human nature, in both its good and bad guises, to keep the reader engaged. The descriptions of the community tensions of 1970s and 80s Sri Lanka are nicely balanced by the those of friendships and and family ties. As the story unfolds, you see the best and worst that mankind can do.
Maria Longley
Mar 28, 2013 Maria Longley rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club, fa, 2013
The novel follows Alice Fonseka over her life from Ceylon/Sri Lanka to London. The parts set in Ceylon/Sri Lanka were fascinating and this is a good example of how novels can shine light on political and historical situations that are educational too. I liked Grandfather Bee a lot and there are some wonderful descriptions in this book. It's also a very sad book and there wasn't much relief from it. Art is a redemptive power in this narrative for Alice and Bee and I'd quite like to see Brixton Be ...more
Philippa saunders
what a beautiful book! there is some lovely imagery as the reader see's life in sri lanka through the eyes of a young girl. I loved her relationship with her grandfather and the people she meets, along with the juxtaposition of her life as an adult living in the completely different world of brixton. it also shows in a real way, an account of the conflict with the tamil tigers through our protagonists viewpoint. she may not be tamil, or sri lankan, but still witnesses how it destroyed peoples li ...more
I really enjoyed the parts of the book that were set in Sri Lanka as the descriptions conjured up images of stunning beaches and clear skies (which having been to the country is my memory). I also identified with the characters who were well developed and felt real. The parts of the book set in London made starck the contrast between the two countries and the lives lead there. I would recommend this, particularly as a holiday read.
Jan 22, 2014 Rebecca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the most beautifully written books I've read for a long while; the use of descriptive language to evoke the beaches of Ceylon and the contrasting bleakness of Brixton is wonderful. The story is the epitome of human tragedy and addresses the issues of injustice, unfairness and potential if only circumstances had been different.
Nov 08, 2015 Anu rated it it was amazing
it had me crying very badly and made my whole day moody.
man life is really short... it began with her 9 b'day and ended with her death...
her sorrows...!!!!!!!!!!
May 09, 2016 Baljit rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The storyline was good, but the pace was slow. The development of each character and the build up was slow. She tends to exaggerate the features of each characters, pigeonholing them as rogues or victims. Also the main characters are trapped in a time warp, conveying the sentiments of many immigrants who leave their homeland reluctantly.
I felt the conclusion was the saving grace, as it was an ironic twist.

'All my life is built on memories'

'To be an immigrant is to be sandwiched between two wor
Kerry Milne
Sep 21, 2014 Kerry Milne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this beautiful book twice I then HAD to go to Sri Lanka. Three times read and love
Aug 16, 2014 Bookguide rated it really liked it
"To leave your country is terrible... Your country is such a part of you. It's in your skin, your eyes, your hair, all of you. You are Ceylon, you know. And whenever someone from this place leaves, a little bit of it leaves with them and is lost forever. If too many people leave Ceylon, it will become another sort of place entirely."

This is a book full of beautiful descriptions, or rather, the descriptions of Sri Lanka are beautiful. The images are very clear; it is no surprise to discover that
Jayne Charles
This book contains tragedy on a grand scale. Just when it seems we are done with the heartbreak along comes a little bit more. The matter-of-factness with which much of it is described makes it, if anything, more hard-hitting.

In the novel the central character Alice leaves her native Sri Lanka at a time of massive social unrest, and moves with her parents to London. This journey takes place at around the halfway point of the novel, and the rest covers her growing up in the UK. I did think the ea
Dec 11, 2010 DubaiReader rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audible, 2010
Review for the Audible version.

I listened to the Audible version of this book, beautifully read by Charlotte Stevens. I wonder if I would have enjoyed it less if I had read the hard copy.

The story is basically that of Alice Fonseca who is 9 years old when we meet her at the start of the book. She is living in Sri Lanka with her parents; a Singhalese mother and a Tamil father. Unfortunately this cross cultural marriage causes problems as Sri Lanka heads towards civil war in 1983. The problems are
Sep 03, 2012 Cmorice rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Alice Fonseka est une petite fille de dix ans, sensible et rêveuse, très attachée à son grand-père, un artiste-peintre chez qui elle passe chaque année ses vacances sur la petite île de Brixton Beach. Lorsqu’ éclate la terrible guerre civile qui opposera Tamouls et Cinghalais pendant plus de trente ans, la famille d’Alice quitte le Sri Lanka pour la Grande-Bretagne. Là, dans un univers urbain froid et désincarné, Alice grandit, s’inventant une vie bien à elle : l’art devient le support de ses pa ...more
Gijs Grob
Brixton Beach is a semi-autobiographical novel about the talented girl Alice Fonseka, who has to leave Sri Lanka to grow up into a woman in England. Although Tearne's semi-alter ego Alice is the undisputed main character of the novel, the omniscient narrator reads many minds, and Tearne is able to make round and believable characters of many of her personae, most notably Alice's weak, drifting and selfish Tamil father Stanley, her Singhalese and bitter mother Sita, apparently born for sorrow, an ...more
Mrs C w Todman
Oct 31, 2015 Mrs C w Todman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
wonderful book, heartfelt and beautifully written with a good strong plot and characters you really care about. the book centres on a young woman moving from a beautifully described beach in sri lanka to muted and cold south London. it covers identity, motherhood, love and loss. And describes a really interesting (and horrible) time in Sri Lanka and England's joint history. if you like this would also recommend Dinah Jeffries the tea planters wife.
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Roma Tearne is a Sri Lankan born artist living and working in Britain. She arrived, with her parents in this country at the age of ten. She trained as a painter, completing her MA at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, Oxford. For nearly twenty years her work as a painter, installation artist, and filmmaker has dealt with the traces of history and memory within public and private spaces.

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