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Noon Tide Toll

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  251 ratings  ·  36 reviews
Vasantha is a van driver in Sri Lanka. After nearly three decades of conflict, the civil war is over and the country is moving tentatively into the future - though at times the recent past seems too close for comfort. Pretty, entrepreneurial hoteliers have mysterious scars under their collars; Chinese businessmen looking to invest in scrap metal are led to gigantic ...more
Hardcover, 237 pages
Published January 2014 by Hamish Hamilton
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Average rating 3.73  · 
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If you are on the move, there is always hope.

Sri Lanka is a country still reeling from war and a devastating tsunami. Vasantha drives a van, taking his paying customers wherever they want to go, for whatever reason, be it business or something more personal.

Sometimes it feels like we are all driving in the dark with no headlights.

V. serves as a fly-on-the-wall, observing without comment as his passengers discuss life, politics and the details of their lives.

A driver's job is to stay in
Celine Calpo
Finished it months before the Georgetown summer assignment was due. Not as boring as I thought it would be, but then again, I was reading it with headphones in. But I really liked the idea of vignettes... I just feel like there were some really crucial ones that made me feel all philosophical whereas the others were just like space-fillers. It was like reading a TV show premise out a dude driving a van, meeting a bunch of cool people. "Taxi Cab" by Vampire Weekend was definitely playing in the ...more
Leonor Morrow
May 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: school
In the end, I really liked this book. There were slow parts, and some of the chapters felt out of place, but most of them were really interesting. I like the use of descriptive language, and there were several philosophical statements that gave me pause. I will say that I didn't really like how each story was an isolated event; I would have preferred it if there had been more of a connection between the stories. I would have also liked to learn more about Vasantha. However, it pleasantly ...more
Apr 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's been a long time since I've read Romesh Gunesekera, a favourite author of mine and this collection of short stories didn't disappoint one iota.
The short stories cleverly takes us on journeys with the driver Vasantha as he transports his clients through the north and south of Sri Lanka – Jaffna in the north with returning expat Tamils looking for the ‘good old days’ when ‘only nuts fell from the sky’, not bombs; aid workers; Chinese investors; and the South with re-purposed soldiers; retired
May 18, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Vasantha is a taxi driver in post-Civil war, post-Tsunami Sri Lanka. As he tries to make sense of the "new" Sri Lanka, his interactions with his western clients cause confusion and disillusionment. This novel provides a glimpse into the physical scars on the landscape and people as well as the feeling of upheaval or imbalance in the country at large.
Barbara Joan
Jul 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Quietly beautifully funny, sad and at times, shocking. Poetic in that every word is worth its weight. Characters sketched lightly, as seen through the eyes of a taxi driver, Vasantha, who has the measure of his passengers, telling their stories in the context of the recent troubled history of Sri Lanka.
John Gilbert
Jun 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful real life stories of modern Sri Lanka after the 'Troubles'. Subtle writing of serious themes done in a non threatening way. Really enjoyed this, especially after traveling around Sri Lanka many years ago in a van seeing all the nooks and crannies during the time of troubles.
Mar 18, 2017 rated it did not like it
DNF...I just couldn't get through it. It did not work for did not hold my interest. It's extremely hard for me to DNF a book but this just wasn't working.
Jan 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: c21st, kindle, sri-lanka
Noontide Toll by Anglo-Sri Lankan author Romesh Gunasekera has been short-listed for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, and I think it is my favourite of those I have read so far. Narrated by the ruminative van driver Vasantha in a linked sequence of vignettes, Noontide Toll is a meditation on life in Sri Lanka as it comes to terms with the trauma of its recent past: the 2004 tsunami, and the end of the brutal civil war.

Every time I drive across the causeway to Jaffna, I feel I am
Dec 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
These are short stories with the same protagonist, the van driver, Vasantha. I didn't know much about Sri Lanka, other than that I'd heard of the Tamil Tigers and of course knew about the tsunami.

One of the tourists, who wants to see the turtles, says to the nightwatchman:
Quote: "Isn't it good luck to see a turtle?" "So they say, miss," the nightwatchman said. "That's what they say, but if it is true I must be the luckiest man in the world." " You are," she laughed tipsily. " Amazingly lucky
Jul 18, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Had to read this for Georgetown, and I'll have the chance to meet the author and ask questions during orientation. (Maybe I'll have an update then!) This is an interesting read—definitely something I wouldn't have picked out or even know about by myself. Vasantha drives mostly foreigners around his home country, Sri Lanka, which has been ravaged by a long civil war and disastrous tsunami. Through his interactions with tourists, businesspeople, and various others whom he drives, he ponders the ...more
Jan 25, 2014 rated it liked it
I liked the fact that it can be read as a novel and a series of short stories.
I do however have a tiny problem with Vasantha, the narrator of the story. There are certain elements about him which don't ring true but this is probably me nitpicking. Quite liked the last chapter/story and I found myself marking out certain bits which I thought were nicely articulated. Here's one:

“When we first heard the war was over, we believed a line could be drawn between the mistakes of the past and the
Aug 26, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was required reading for Georgetown - apparently, it was due August 1. I finished the book today. Ah, such is life.

I have never felt so lukewarm about a book. Whenever I read, I tend to know how I feel about the text - I'm a love-it-or-hate-it kind of gal. I'm either reading to bathe myself in every word, every metaphor, or I'm finishing the book like it's the coldest shower I've ever taken. I love. I hate. I'm hot. I'm cold. This book was - for the first time - lukewarm.

It's important.
Son Ha
Oct 08, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read a short excerpt on the New Yorker, "Roadkill", and had to buy the physical book when it came out. The collection of short stories were written from the vantage point of Vasantha the van driver. There were a few poignant stories, few stories made me reflect further on humanity, especially when the author/Vasantha pondered about the killing off of decency and humanity in the civil war and the ensuing rebuilding efforts. Something that I can reflect for the broader world as a whole. There ...more
Jun 26, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Noontide Toll is a book with an ambition to capture the present uncertainty of a post-war Sri Lanka before development and the bright promises of future, with memories obscured by rose-tinted glasses. The book can be interpreted as both a series of connected short stories and a larger novel with a single protagonist and his experiences around the island. Read the full review:
Aug 24, 2015 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this. Some very nice turns of phrase and some interesting insights, to which I think I'll return on a re-reading. I read this ahead of a trip to Sri Lanka and was hoping for some deeper insight into the nature of the country than perhaps the book could deliver, but I have a feeling it'll be a nice launching point for the deeper reading I plan to attempt now I've completed it. Worth a read, and most of the short stories held my attention well.
Craig Fernandes
Jun 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An engaging, humorous and insightful collection of short stories that delves into the ravages and psychological aftermath of previously civil-war and tsunami torn parts of Sri Lanka. A Toyota van driver, Vasantah, calmly ferries people across the landscape while reflecting on an intriguing array of characters, situations and personal journeys that define the past and present.
Feb 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The stories are a running commentary on several trips Vasantha, a van driver, takes with his paying customers. But it is also a picture of Sri Lanka today, beautiful, but its people are haunted by its history: the British, the civil war with the Tamils, the tsunami. He laments the changes that are taking place, and what it will mean as the country moves into the future.
Sangeetha T
Aug 11, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I stopped reading after the dehumanizing comments about Tamil people. In the writer's defense, the main character was saying these things. But the writer does not problematize or draw attention to how making statements about not knowing that Tamils have children (meaning they are human like everyone else), which was my issue with it.
Feb 28, 2014 rated it it was ok
The book didn't impress me. The narrator's voice and language does not sound like that of a van driver. While the landscape is described beautifully, the book I thought was superficial when talking about the civil war past. Except for the chapter - Roadkill, I did not find other chapters interesting.
Jan 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I'm yet to read the most talked about book by Romesh Gunesekera, ie Reef. But after reading Noon Tide Toll I'm sure why he's talked about so much. Reading about Sri Lanka post 2009 is quite an eye opener indeed. As a van driver chronicles his journeys with a pot pourri of clients, the experience only gets richer.
Puja Borker
Jul 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Meditative! The adage that we should make peace not war comes alive in the contemplative voice of Vasantha as he drives us up and down the Srilankan coast, where uncertainty leads to all sorts of paradoxes, like beauty and the beast or peace and fear -found in the same person, in the same place.

Young Scholarz
Jun 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Unadulterated pure prose with feelings , emotions and rhetorical questions simply put forward by the author through the protagonist Vasantha.
The novel sparks an interest to understand Sri Lanka, its culture and its strifes particularly through the intimate relationship between its people and the sea.
Rajeev Goenka
Jun 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Very well written. .short stories but each one linked with a common character
First reading of a Sri Lankan author.
Gave an interesting insight to life after the 30 year war.
Reading authors from Middle East..India..and now Sri Lanka is a welcome change
As grown up on only American and British authors
Would love to read other countries authors
Look forward to suggestions on same
Must read book!
May 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My first encounter with this writer and while I don't normally enjoy short stories, the fact that each story was written from the viewpoint of Vasantha -a driver for hire - and all set in Sri Lanka, gave it cohesion. Social commentary written simply and effectively.
Mar 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lovely little book of short stories about Sri Lanka after the war and tsunami through the eyes of a van driver. I particularly enjoyed this as I read it whilst on holiday in Sri Lanka which is a beautiful country full of friendly people, stunning scenery and wildlife.
Jan 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sri-lanka-india
Another good book about Sri Lanka, this one stories about a van driver who takes people around the island. Stories cover the impact of the tsunami, the aftermath of the war and the physical beauty of the place.
Not his best. Still worth reading, especially if you have interest in or have already visited Sri Lanka.
May 04, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was a very nice book! Different than what I usually read. It has a slow, meandering pace, but is very thoughtful and interesting. Beautiful phrases and language.
World Literature Today
This book was featured in the Nota Benes section of the March/April 2015 issue of World Literature Today Magazine.

See the full list of the March Nota Benes here:
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Romesh Gunesekera was born in Sri Lanka where he spent his early years. Before coming to Britain he also lived in the Philippines. He now lives in London. In 2010 he was writer in residence at Somerset House.

His first novel, Reef, was published in 1994 and was short-listed as a finalist for the Booker Prize, as well as for the Guardian Fiction Prize. In the USA he was nominated for a New Voice
“I like to know about the world beyond our shores. About faraway countries where people behave differently. I like to hear about their food and customs. How they deal with the cold and the rain. What it is like to drive on the other side of the road.” 1 likes
“So much is kept off limits these days. There are things we don't speak of, things we not only don't remember but carefully forget, places we do not stray into, memories we bury or reshape. That is the way we all live nowadays: driving a long a road between hallucination and amnesia. As long as you are moving, you are OK -- you have negotiated safe passage, for the moment. It is only when you come to a stop like this, in a black night in the middle of nowhere, that things wobble a bit and you wonder about the purpose of roads. You sit in the dark, frightened at the life you've led and things you've led undone. You can only hope that in the long run it won't matter, but that in itself is no consolation at all.” 1 likes
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