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Brixton Beach

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  1,098 ratings  ·  137 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
Hardcover, First edition, 432 pages
Published May 28th 2009 by HarperPress
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Tina Panik There is violence in the book, as it is set during the Sri Lankan civil war. The book covers a stretch of time from the mid 1970's (?) to about 2005. …moreThere is violence in the book, as it is set during the Sri Lankan civil war. The book covers a stretch of time from the mid 1970's (?) to about 2005. The prose is beautiful; a teen in 8th grade could definitely handle it! (less)

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Average rating 3.83  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,098 ratings  ·  137 reviews

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Nov 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is the first I have read of Roma Tearne. She is a Sri Lankan artist and writer whose family moved to Britain in 1964. Tearne had a Tamil father and Sinhalese mother and the long-running civil war was very immediate to her and runs through her work. This book is a family saga with a dual setting; Sri Lanka and London.
The novel revolves around Alice Fonseca and her family; at the beginning of the novel she is nine and living in Sri Lanka; she has a Tamil father and Sinhalese mother. The first
May 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Stephen Clynes
Sep 19, 2011 rated it did not like it
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
Sue Lyle
Nov 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful but very sad book set in Sri Lanka and Brixton - I wept buckets.
Dec 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
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 rated it really liked it
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 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it really liked it
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 rated it really liked it
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 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was the perfect novel for me to read after returning from a holiday in Sri Lanka. The horrors of the civil war there have been neatly papered over for tourists but echoes remain. It was salutary to immerse myself in the characters and experiences created by Tearne who fled Sri Lanka with her family when she was very young.

Tearne's character, Alice Foseka, experiences the same fate. Alice, who has a Singhalese mother and a Tamil father, is a precocious ten year old with a close relationship
Dec 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 31, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
`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
Jan 20, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Elizabeth Gauntley
Sep 13, 2017 rated it liked it
This book was wonderful for about the first 2/3rds. Tearne writes beautifully, as an artist. Depictions of Sri lanka and London were evocative and it was interesting to get some sense of the troubles in Sri Lanka (though more clarity would have been welcome). But, sadly the book descended into a dirge of repetition ( I was impressed by how Tearne found so many different ways to say the same thing) and protraction of themes. Alice became as tedious to me as she had to her husband. Her grandfather ...more
Philippa saunders
Aug 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Rebecca Jane
Dec 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 29, 2011 rated it liked it
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.
Jun 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
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.
Jennifer Ramsden
Oct 30, 2015 rated it liked it
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.
The journey of straddling two societies/cultures was intriguing at first but the utter despair throughout 95% of the book was just paralyzing. The empathy you feel for the characters just turns into complete anguish and hopelessness, which, admittedly was probably purposeful by the author. It was just too much and too disheartening for my taste.
Kerry Milne
Nov 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I read this beautiful book twice I then HAD to go to Sri Lanka. Three times read and love
Nov 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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...!!!!!!!!!!
Gumble's Yard
Feb 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010
Alice Fonseka is the mixed race daughter of a Tamil father Stanley and Singhalese mother Sita. At the start of the book while Alice stays with her beloved artist grandfather Bee, Sita loses her baby to the neglect of a Singhalese doctor. Sita shuts down while Stanley emigrates followed (to his later regret) by Sita and Alice. Sita has come out of her mourning due to an affair with a Tamil Bee shelters after he is shot by the police but the Tamil is then killed while she is sailing to England thu ...more
Richard Smith
Oct 31, 2018 rated it liked it
‘To be an immigrant is to be sandwiched between two worlds,’ says the main character this book, and it’s a book about a Sri Lankan woman who comes as a child to live in London. ‘The effort it takes to be a person who does not belong is unimaginable, you know. I am one of those people, living that life.’

But she also didn’t belong in Sri Lanka as she was half Singhalese and half Tamil at a time when the animosity between the two peoples was leading to the Civil War. I read the book because I was t
Aug 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
This book is absolutely beautiful and absolutely sad. Somehow this novel fell onto my path from the bookshelf of a yoga ashram and hotel in Austria, first time away from my two year old son for another reason than work! Realized what I really missed was to read and read. For that purpose this book was perfect, taking me on a deep felt trip to a beach in a country on the side of the Indian Ocean I still haven’t been to.

As the tragedy of the civil war catches fire, the book, however, loses some o
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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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