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The Story of a Brief Marriage

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  2,457 ratings  ·  459 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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Cyd No, he grew up in Colombo and then moved to the US to attend university. He and his family, however, are Tamil and his parents are from northeast Sri …moreNo, he grew up in Colombo and then moved to the US to attend university. He and his family, however, are Tamil and his parents are from northeast Sri Lanka. (less)

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Jessica Woodbury
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
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,
Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer
Sep 29, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2021
From the hemisphere of his mind devoted to the past and the hemisphere devoted to the future great swathes had been shaved off, and enclosing the sensitive little core that belonged to the present there remained only the thin layer of the recent past and near future, leaving him without that recourse to the distant past or future by which in times of difficulty ordinary people were able to ignore or endure or at least justify the present moment.

The debut novel of the 2021 Booker-shortlisted
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
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
Nov 09, 2021 rated it really liked it
Told over the course of 24 hours, The Story of a Brief Marriage examines how life continues amidst the chaos of war and separation. Dinesh lives in a refugee camp during the Sri Lankan civil war. He's completely alone, no family remaining. Every day he faces the violence and destruction the war brings upon the citizens of his country, from the very first sentence of the novel:

"Most children have two whole legs and two whole arms but this little six-year-old that Dinesh was carrying had already l
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
Roger Brunyate
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
Apr 24, 2022 rated it really liked it
In the past too he had felt this strange desire for stillness, not often, but more than once or twice. He would be sitting with one or two of his friends on the outskirts of the village at late evening, cross-legged on the earth, the darkening blue sky spread out before them in the distance. What they spoke about at such times he could no longer say, but there were moments, Dinesh could remember, when their conversation would begin to slow down, when everything they said would seem to circle aro ...more
Rae 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
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
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
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
Dec 31, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2021
Being close to someone meant more than being next to them after all, it meant more than simply having spent a lot of time with them. Being close to someone meant the entire rhythm of that person's life was synchronized with yours, it meant that each body had to learn how to respond to the other instinctually, to its gestures and mannerisms, to the subtle changes in the cadence of its speech and gait, so that all the movements of one person had gradually come to be in subconscious harmony with th ...more
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.
Jonathan Pool
Nov 14, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: international
It is unusual that the title of the book is also a spoiler, but that the case here. Given the set up in which two strangers hastily marry, while the shells fly around them, the reader’s anticipation of what is likely to happen gives the story and the writing a gravitas that makes this an immersive read. The roar of war is a constant backdrop to a day in the life of Dinesh(kanthan), and his world has narrowed to revolve around a clearing in the jungle, the shelter of an upturned boat, and the hor ...more
Sep 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Set in a make shift refugee camp in Sri Lanka populated by those displaced by more than two decades of fighting, this story unfolds over a single day. The narrator is a young man who has lost everything except his basic humanity. When another refugee asks him to marry his daughter in order to give both young people a bit more security, something in him begins to briefly re-awaken. This is a beautifully and sensitively written account of one person’s struggle to be truly human in a world that wan ...more
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
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. ...more
Oct 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
Michelle D’costa
Mar 05, 2021 rated it really liked it
I had been planning to read this since long and I managed to do it last year. From the first page itself, the prose startled me with its matter of fact tone and description of disturbing scenes as if it were normal.

This story is not something people would encounter every day unless they are in a war zone. It shakes you from within and makes you realise that every moment in life matters and to take nothing for granted.

I recommend that everyone read this because you won't look at life the same wa
Dec 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A brilliant debut, almost unbearably poignant, that puts us inside the POV of a sweet, thoughtful young man for 24 hours in a refugee camp during the Sri Lankan civil war, circa 2009. Lots happens, and Dinesh observes it minutely through a haze of shock and PTSD. I think it would be hard to approach this novel with an open heart and not come away gutted by this short meditation on life, death and the human spirit under extreme duress...and the thought of how many people are living in similar cir ...more
A boy and a girl. In the middle of a civil war. Bombs are dropping incessantly. They are detainees in an open cage with thousands of others fleeing the violence between Sri Lanka and its’ Tamil Tigers.

Dinesh and Ganga. Both lost their entire families and escaped one of these lousy internment camps popping up all around the world. In the middle east, in the far east, in parts of Europe. In California, Texas...

The two children are sanctioned by the fiat of the Sri Lankan government as with all th
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
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
Jan 31, 2017 rated it it was ok
"Bleak" would be the top word for this one. The novel takes place over about a day in a refugee camp in Sri Lanka. The main character, Dinesh, sleeps just outside the camp in the forest, and the novel opens with him carrying a boy injured by shrapnel during a bombing. The author uses about ten words where one would do, and this works to great effect in this opening chapter - you circle around and around this boy's injuries and the facts of life in what is literally a last-stop refugee camp, the ...more
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
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.
Sairam Krishnan
Sep 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Devastating. Anuk Arudpragasam's debut is a polished, clinical novel, told with full knowledge of the effect it will have. I read it immediately after reading A Passage North, and the subtlety with which he handles similar subjects in his second novel is not visible here. In its place is a sharper, more palpable gaze, borne of anger maybe, but definitely of genuine feeling.

I sensed immediately very similar themes as well, the gentle, almost tender storytelling, the vulnerable, male point of vie
Renita D'Silva
Jun 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Harrowing, heart wrenching, beautifully written.
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Anuk Arudpragasam is a Sri Lankan Tamil novelist. His first novel, The Story of a Brief Marriage, was translated into seven languages, won the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, and was shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize. His second novel, A Passage North, came out in July 2021 and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

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