Priyanthi Silva is born in Sri Lanka into a peaceful, loving Sinhalese family, but into a turbulent country dogged by religious and political tensions. She and her rebellious brother, Hemantha, grow up in Araliya Gardens, a tropical paradise full of orchids, araliyas and mango trees. Their neighbours Bala and Violet are Christian Tamils whose gentle, handsome son Niranjan is Hemantha’s best friend. When Priyanthi is older, the two families spend a holiday together by the sea. Priyanthi and Niranjan’s eyes are opened up to a strange world outside their protected existence. While Hemantha smokes cigarettes and chases girls, they meet Sena, a toddy tapper who swings through the coconut trees to collect sap, and surprises them with his quiet wisdom. Their friendship with him marks their lives indelibly. When Priyanthi and Niranjan return home they have fallen in love. But it is an unthinkable match to both their families, and to a society riven with ethnic divisions. On a hot July day that year the streets of Colombo explode into frenzied violence as mobs begin to hunt and murder Tamils and burn and loot their property. The dark secret Priyanthi and Niranjan have been hiding leads to betrayal and tragedy, as an inferno of hatred from which none of them will escape unscathed, overcomes their peaceful neighbourhood. This is a deeply moving, disturbing novel about families and lovers wrenched apart by deep racial and political divides.
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