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The Story of a Brief Marriage

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  1,546 ratings  ·  311 reviews
Two and a half decades into a devastating civil war, Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority is pushed inexorably towards the coast by the advancing army. Amongst the evacuees is Dinesh, whose world has contracted to a makeshift camp where time is measured by the shells that fall around him like clockwork. Alienated from family, home, language, and body, he exists in a state of mute ac ...more
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published September 6th 2016 by Flatiron Books
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3.74  · 
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 ·  1,546 ratings  ·  311 reviews


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Alena
Jul 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
This probably wasn't the best choice for a beach read as the novel takes place over 24 hours in a refugee camp during Sri Lanka's Civil War. It's a testament to the writing that despite the sand and splashing, and despite the fact that I couldn't locate Sri Lanka on a map, I was completely drawn into this book.

Be warned - if you don't want four pages devoted to the description of nail trimming and bathing, this is not the book for you. The author's attention to detail, including bowel movements,
...more
Jessica Woodbury
Jul 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
It took me a month to read this book. Writing a review for it makes you want to pull out your Thesaurus and find all the synonyms for "bleak." But the word that came to me as I read the first chapter was "visceral." And that is the word I'm going to stick with, though there are many other words you could use to describe it.

You do not read a book set in a war-torn country refugee camp and expect happiness and light. It will not be that kind of book. And yet there is something about this story th
...more
Tanuj Solanki
the review first appeared in The Hindu Business Line's Saturday supplement BLink

The Persistence of the Body

The final leg of the Sri Lankan civil war provides the setting for Anuk Arudpragasam’s debut novel, The Story of a Brief Marriage. The protagonist, a Tamil youth named Dinesh, is trapped, like thousands of other Tamil evacuees, between the battle-lines and the sea. A stoic narrator accesses Dinesh’s inner life. In the terminal world presented to us, it is understandably difficult to find th
...more
Roger Brunyate
Living
Perhaps people simply had no choice. Perhaps they had to keep moving, to get up in the morning, and to go on until evening. Breathing was not a choice or habit after all, it was not something you could start or stop at will. The atmosphere entered the body of its own accord, and in the same way it took its leave, from the first breath to the last, so perhaps in a way living was not a choice. The air would go on advancing, and till it stopped it would go on receding. When you were hungry y
...more
Book Riot Community
It took me about a month to read this book. The writing is so simple and precise, yet the experience is so vivid and visceral that it feels like magic. I do a lot of reading before bed and this book would transport me and leave me exhausted, but not ready to sleep. Set in a Sri Lankan refugee camp, it follows Dinesh, who has lost everything, through a single day. The title already tells you the main plot: Dinesh marries Ganga, in an act of either hope or desperation. They may never live a normal ...more
Rachel Beeler
Jan 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is overwhelming, in every way possible. From the first sentence - "Most children have two whole legs and two whole arms but this little six-year-old that Dinesh was carrying had already lost one leg, the right one from the lower thigh down, and was now about to lose his right arm" - to the last, it is simply captivating and heartbreaking and it gave me all the feels.

Given the title, you know going in to it how the story will end, or rather that this isn't going to be a tale of happine
...more
Em*bedded-in-books*
Why this Book?
Recommended by Girish and urged on by Sharadha.
I started the Book, felt disgusted and nauseous in initial two pages, was about to give it up... when Sharadha said she is at 25% and it is good.
Continued reading and was drawn into civil war ravaged life of Dinesh, a representative of the innocent citizens who are the ones whose lives get irrevocably damaged or changed by war.
The author dissects Dinesh's single day , minute by minute and takes us into the intricacies of his surroundin
...more
Subashini
Recently I saw a quote by Virginia Woolf, from A Room of One's Own, about novels with integrity, and I realised it could also work as an accurate description of this book. This book affords its characters, especially the main character Dinesh through whom we see this war-ravaged slice of world, dignity. I think there is an ethics to this careful, precise, philosophical writing. That anyone who writes like this must consistently value the moral in process of creation and the responsibility that c ...more
Sangeetha Ramachandran
Feb 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
"Happiness and sadness are for people who can control what happens to them"

After reading this one, I found it really hard to channelize my thoughts and feelings about it. These are pages filled with wonderings of a man's mind under horrors of war. Dinesh, one of the evacuees in Sri Lankan Civil war who had lost his family and belongings is being approached by a man with a marriage proposal. In a situation where no one can control events of the day leave alone thinking about future, Dinesh and Ga
...more
K.D. Winchester
Aug 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Definitely a hard book to read, but well worth it. Set during the civil war of Sri Lanka, this book covers twenty-four hours in the life of Dinesh, one of thousands of refugees fleeing the violence and devastation of the war. Though it's incredibly slow in places and ends on a strange note, this book covers an important part of history that westerners rarely read about. But, oh man, we need to.
Katia N
Nov 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This short novel is set within less than 24 hours time frame during the last months of Sri Lanka’s civil war in 2009. The events take place in a displaced people camp on the coast of the ocean. These people physically do not have anywhere to go anymore - they face water. They are Tamils pushed out of their villages by the Government forces fighting Tamil Tigers. They are under constant shelling being methodically annihilated. But there is no politics in the novel. It could happen anywhere where ...more
Beverly
This sparse yet meticulously elegant debut novel allows the reader walk in Dinesh’s shoes, a Tamil evacuee of the Sri Lankan Civil War for twenty-four hours where life span is measured in minutes.
Three words came to mind when I finished the last page – unflinching, scathing, heart weary.
Unflinching as the author did not allow me from the first page to look away from the intricate steps to perform basic human functions. As I was snuggled comfortably in my bed with my connecting bathroom, I read
...more
Jaclyn Crupi
Feb 22, 2017 rated it liked it
This book is so slow and quiet that if you don't pay attention you just might miss its power. When it's tender it's beautiful and when it's brutal it breaks you. Set over the course of a few days during the Sri Lankan civil war the book explores our need for connection during times of chaos and despair.
jo
Oct 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: linda, jakaem, jean
this is a tremendously beautiful book. it's set in 2009, during a civil massacre the author says got little acknowledgment internationally and maybe also nationally, and it's fucking brutal. it takes place in a refugee camp in northeast sri lanka, where tamil evacuees are trying to escape the attack of the government but are backed up against the sea, with nowhere to go. the tamil tigers, the rebel organization that is fighting the government, are almost as feared as the government, because they ...more
Kathrin
Sep 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I hardly ever give 5 stars to a fiction book, but I don't think there is a choice with this one.

It certainly is not for the squeamish ... I felt nauseous around page three. It was a hard read, but such an interesting and heartbreaking story. The author made me feel like I was looking into Dinesh's head and gain an understanding of living in such a surreal place. See how a war doesn't only destroy bodies, but that it is destroying minds.

Despite the horrible subject matter, the writing is absolute
...more
Renita D'Silva
Jun 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Harrowing, heart wrenching, beautifully written.
Ming
Oct 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
One of the sweetest, most tender stories I've read. In the midst of horror, the possibility of a connection and joy occurs. The writing is subtle and poetic and builds this feeling of expansiveness while focusing on two young people. I have to say the emotions in this book often choked me up. I was moved and taken by the beauty of the language and the senses the words evoked. (I did object to the length of so many of the paragraphs, some spanning 2-3 pages. It felt overwhelming to have those sce ...more
Dan
Oct 13, 2018 rated it liked it
The story of a ‘brief marriage’ in Sri Lanka in the midst of the recent civil war, death and trauma. The camp that Dinesh, a young man who is the main character, resides in is comprised of tents and dugouts, largely ineffective against the artillery shells. Dinesh, in no official capacity, brings the wounded to the doctor and helps dig graves for those who have died.

At some point early in the novel, a stranger begs Dinesh to marry his daughter, so that she might be safer and have a chance to su
...more
KC
I would like to thank Edelweiss, Flatiron Books, and Anuk Arudpragasam for the advanced digital copy in exchange for an honest review. This is a story that takes place during Sri Lanka's Civil War, in a refugee camp over 24 hours where two strangers, Dinesh and Ganga, marry. This is not for the squeamish or the impatient. It is a slow, slow boil with great detail. It's sad and a hard read because of it.
Noah
Oct 27, 2016 rated it did not like it
The long paragraphs and chapters made it hard to get through (especially as not much HAPPENS in the course of the book). A chapter devoted to defecation and another to a shower did not provide me with the sorts of human insights into the conflict in Sri Lanka as I wanted. The writing felt cold and provided no real shading to the character of Dinesh (or his even less-well-drawn wife). Glad to finally be done with it.
Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac)
Shelling and bombing and dead decomposing bodies and the wounded surround you in the rebel camp. A man from the medical tent asks you to marry his daughter, it being a given that none of the three of you can expect to survive the end of the week, never mind the end of this war. Yes, you say. She too has all but disappeared into numbness. No time for romance, for much of anything. Except what really matters. Devastating; it aches with truth.
Priya
Mar 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
"MOST CHILDREN HAVE two whole legs and two whole arms but this little six-year-old that Dinesh was carrying had already lost one leg, the right one from the lower thigh down, and was now about to lose his right arm. Shrapnel had dissolved his hand and forearm into a soft, formless mass, spilling to the ground from some parts, congealing in others, and charred everywhere else. Three of the fingers had been fully detached, where they were now it was impossible to tell, and the two remaining still, ...more
Anne
The Story of a Brief Marriage was hard to describe for me when I just finished it. Now I've gathered my thoughts and hopefully I can convince you of its magic.

I'll try to summarise the setting of the book very briefly. Dinesh is a young man and a refugee in the war between the government and 'the movement'. He has fled so far eastwards that he has arrived at an encampment near the shore. In this time of war, he has calmly accepted the inevitable fact that he will die, either from a shelling or,
...more
Girish
Mar 23, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dsc-south-asian
3.5 stars. Would be 5 stars under different circumstances I guess.

One of the most absorbing passages is about the protagonist Dinesh eating a dinner of rice and dal after long. Or when Dinesh watches his sleeping wife and takes her in. Or Dinesh taking a bath and washing his clothes.

A story of brief marriage is like meditation which magnifies every moment, every breath and every movement of the day to day routine. And contrast it against the horrors of war which make the ordinary so beautiful.
...more
Nidhi Mahajan
Nov 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sri-lanka
Originally posted on my blog.

Tugging at Your Gut: Anuk Arudpragasam's The Story of a Brief Marriage

The Story of a Brief Marriage by Anuk Arudpragasam is a novel spanning one day in the life of Dinesh and Ganga, two people brought together in marital union by the urgency of war. Set in the Sri Lankan Civil War, the novel lays bare the realities of conflict, forced migration, and suffering. It tells you how much and how little human life is worth.

This is not a story for the faint hearted. It begin
...more
E.V. Legters
Sep 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Arudpragasam's novel is a celebration of life. Illuminating delicacy and beauty against a backdrop of unrelenting horror -- the Sri Lankan civil war about which I confess I knew nothing -- seems impossible, but it became possible here. The story's transcends its rich cultural traditions to speak to all of us.
Sharon
Jan 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
The language in this novel is absolutely beautiful. The first two pages alone were captivating and heart-wrenching and I just knew I had to continue reading. The narration is so beautifully detailed, but that is where it also sometimes lost me because some things were being explained in so much detail. But at the same time, those details allow you to feel that you are experiencing the traumatic and frightening life of Dinesh and everyone in the novel. The title haunts you as you're reading and w ...more
Mark
Oct 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
It is impossible to realistically imagine life in another man's shoes. We empathize with other human beings, but we cannot know their true pain and suffering. We cannot imagine leaving what is left of our meager belongings by the side of the road, or worse yet, having to stand by as loved ones die and suffer. But the need for survival is an impulse that drives our main character on in his daily routine of life in a refugee camp. Witnessing Dinesh's twenty-four hours is an eye-opening experience. ...more
Nada
Aug 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: r-ng
Eerie. Brutal. Devastating. Quiet. Hypnotic. Intensely physical. Philosophical. Hyper-aware. All these words describe The Story of a Brief Marriage by Anuk Arudpragasam. The writing is wonderfully detailed in its physical descriptions but is definitely not for the squeamish. This bleak book about death set in the Sri Lankan civil war leaves me with a reminder of how precious life is and of how much we take for granted.

Read my complete review at http://www.memoriesfrombooks.com/2016....

Reviewed
...more
Ajay
Nov 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: debut, war
Visceral and thought-provoking, this short book meditates on the fallibility and absurdity of our physical bodies even as a bloody civil war rages on in the backdrop.
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