Brixton Beach
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Brixton Beach

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  553 ratings  ·  71 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
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...more
Laurie
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
Tilly
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...more
Megan Morgan
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
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.
Ellen
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...more
Philip
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...more
Michael Moseley
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
Anne
`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...more
Annie
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
Sue Lyle
A wonderful but very sad book set in Sri Lanka and Brixton - I wept buckets.
Bookguide
"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...more
poppyshake
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...more
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...more
DubaiReader
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...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
Anna
As an emigrant from a sunny, warm climate to a cold, grey, rainy one, I empathized with the main character, Alice, as she left Sri Lanka to London in the 1970s. It hit very close to home for me. Alice, as a child, was a very well-drawn character. I could not understand, and it was never fully explained, why her very different parents would ever be attracted to one another, it certainly didn't seem physical or emotional.

It was gut-wrenching to anticipate Alice's separation from her Grandfather Be...more
Rachel Wilce
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.
Kate
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rebecca
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.
Mary Soellner
Loved this....so many layers of beautifully written images created....
Maria Longley
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
Maia
I didn't enjoy this book as much as I thought I would when I read reviews on it, and then bought it. I was visiting my mother in the UK and it caught my eye, I myself having lived as an expat in the UK as a kid and then having known many kids like the ones Tearne describes. However, the story unfolds very, very (and unnecessarily) slowly and it was a struggle to get to the middle, by which point the narrative strengthens. I just didn't feel that the slow pace benefits this kind of story.
Queenaerobie
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.
Elizabeth Moffat
Came so close to a five star review!! The beginning part of this novel, which focused on Alice's childhood and her relationship with her grandfather is beautiful and poignant and made me remember my own relationship. It was also harrowing in points due to the violence, hatred and reference to the London bombings. The only thing that let it down was the small portion of the book just before the end which I found a little slow.
Jan
Very moving, there is rarely a page without at least once sentence that stops you in your tracks as it is pure poetry. The authors ability to transport your mind to that beach with its waves, rocks, breeze and smells is brilliant. The juxtaposition of such beautiful people in what the author describes as little short of a paradise but with a dark and sinister backdrop of civil unrest and war.
Very powerfully written.
Kirsteen
This book starts with a shocking description of the aftermath of London bombings - with vivid imagery that bring the scenes into the forefront of mind. Then in contrast descriptions of ceylon - equally as vivd. The story is slow paced although compelling - the characters and their relationships are easy to relate too - particulary the relationship between the main character and her Grandfather - I wholly recommend this read.
April
I didn't expect to like this book as much as I did. The book is full of tragedies, but leaves the reader with more of an understanding of the time period rather than trying to pull at emotions. The characters and landscape are well crafted, seemingly with love, remembrance and with a real sense of being. The end however seems either too drawn out, or rushed by having to have the characters span an entire lifetime.
Amy Karon
This novel was a huge project, spanning decades, geographies, and numerous real-life sociopolitical events. Great descriptions of place and some strong characterizations, but other characters were quite two-dimensional, we never learn what happens to some of the major characters, and some of the prose is quite unpolished. I think this would have benefited from stronger editing for both content and prose.
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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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