Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Wave, by Sonali Deraniyagala. Book review

Hello. I am writing this book review even though I am only half way through it. I was running out of time on the mobile library van, Stan wanted to move off and park up for his lunch break, so I made a quick choice. I got the gist of the story from the back cover, and thought I would give it a try. Last night in bed, I picked it up again to carry on reading, but I found myself skimming through the pages, it wasn't really grabbing my attention. I skipped ahead a few pages, then more skipping, and eventually decided I didn't want to read any more, so I have given up. 
Wave is the story of one woman, Sonali Deraniyagala, who lost her whole family in the 2004 tsunami. Her parents, husband, and sons were all swept away when it hit the beach of Yala, Sri Lanka. They left the hotel where they were staying in order to escape, but the waves were too big and too strong, and came in at such a speed, they had no chance of reaching a safe place. Sonali herself only survived by hanging onto the branch of a tree.

Her recollections of what happened during and immediately after the disaster make harrowing reading, it made me wonder how anyone can carry on with their life after that. The book is an account of how she did manage to carry on, the last chapter taking her to June 2012. It's mostly a diary, recalling thousands of memories of her life with her family before it happened. Every tiny detail is remembered and recorded.

As I was reading it I thought I shouldn't be. This is someones private thoughts, a private diary, an account of the authors emotions and feelings locked deep inside her head. She has no need to share this with me, and I have no need to read it. I'm not sure why I feel this way, I have read many intimate and emotional life stories before. Perhaps it's because most of the characters in this story are dead.

Some words from the reviews inside the book.  'Bringing those she loved to life so completely that they breathe on the page' - Vanity Fair. 'Relentless in it's explication of grief'' - More magazine. 'Deraniyagala's family spring from these pages with an exuberance and dimensionality that lifts Wave from memoir into some virtual realm of documentation' - The Boston Globe.

You might like to read a review of this book by Guardian writer, William Dalrymple. It goes into a lot more detail than I have done here. For unbiased opinions read the comments on Amazon.

Thanks for popping in. Toodle pip.


  1. Hi,Ilona.The book "Wave" was on our library's recommended reading list.I opted out of reading it because it sounded very tragic and sad. I used to plough through a book that didn't really interest me because I felt obligated to the author to do so.Silly of me really and I've always been very earnest.Now I'm older and do choose to stop continuing on with a book that lost my interest without any misgivings.There's lots of snow here and 5 below today so enjoyed being out and shovelling and getting the firewood basket filled up.It's been a beautiful winter's day.Bye for now,D.

  2. I am with you on this; the book sounds very dark.

  3. Thank you for your comments. Yes, it is tragic and sad, but the author has been unable to move on and clings to the past. Not my style at all, but then I haven't had to go through any big tragedies in my life.

  4. I agree with you; reading about other's genuine misery is not entertainment and does no-one good unless it can prompt us to do something to help, which this book does not.

  5. Ilona, I love your attitude to life - always positive and practical. I enjoy your blog very much.