On Sal Mal Lane — Review

June 23, 2013

On Sal Mal Lane by Ru Freeman is a truly beautiful book. It is set in Sri Lanka between the years 1979 and 1983 when there was a great amount of civil unrest and tension among different religious and ethnic communities.

To be entirely honest, I know almost nothing about Sri Lankan history before reading this book and while a stronger grasp might have been beneficial in providing a larger historical context for the story, it was certainly not necessary to understand the story.

On Sal Mal Lane focuses mostly on the children on the lane, especially the Herath children who live in a somewhat perfect bubble of music, fraternal understanding and cooperation, and academic achievement.

The beauty and tragedy of this book is how the children along the lane begin to learn of the world beyond that of their small community — where instead of the petty differences and disagreements there are much more volatile prejudices at work.

On Sal Mal Lane chronicles the loss of innocence and the resilience of community. It is touching and profoundly sad, yet with redemptive overtones. It shows some of the horrible things people can do, but it is about the wonderful things people can do.

It is great, it just leads to inappropriate displays of emotion on public transportation.


One Response to “On Sal Mal Lane — Review”

  1. Janice said

    oh no! emotional displays on public transport – that’s the worst!!

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