Those I have Lost – Book Review
A secret love affair on a faraway island. Seas crawling with Japanese spies. A terrible war creeping ever closer…
India, 1940 and Rosie is devastated by the sudden death of her beloved mother. The parties, smiles and games disappear, and although Rosie is desperate to stay in her home, her father cannot look after her. All alone in the world, she is sent to Sri Lanka, to live with her mother’s friend Silvia and her three sons.
Time passes and Rosie flourishes in her new home amongst the mango trees and canna lilies. And one day, under the heat of the Sri Lankan sun, she falls in love for the first time. But her happiness is short lived, for the brutal war that has devastated families and torn Europe apart is creeping closer to their island. One by one the men depart Sri Lanka leaving Rosie with just memories and a broken heart she must hide.
As Rosie waits for letters that never come, tortured by stories of torpedoed ships and massacres of innocent families, she realises that she cannot just sit and wait for news. She volunteers to help the army, working in military intelligence to protect her island paradise. But then her work brings shocking news that makes her blood run cold. The man she loved is missing, feared dead. Yet Rosie cannot lose hope – even as more women are left widows, more children left without fathers. But when the much longed-for news comes that the war is ended, and a limping wasted figure returns home, will one final devastating revelation tear Rosie’s world apart?
No. of pages:- 430 pages
Date published:- will be published9th July 2021
Genre:- Historical Fiction
When I saw the blurb of this book and saw “Sri Lanka” and WWII, I was so excited! Number 1 reason being I am a fan of WWII books and the other reason is I am a Sri Lankan! As a Sri Lankan, I was always curious about what Sri Lanka aka Ceylon was like during the war and so I was fascinated when I saw the blurb and decided to give it a try.
Rosie and her family are living in Madras, India in a house called Shanti Nivasam. When Rosie’s mother dies and her father cannot look after her, Rosie moves to Sri Lanka, known during the British rule at the time as Ceylon to live with her mother’s friend, Aunt Sylvie. Aunt Sylvie has three sons–Graham who is studying to be a doctor, Victor who is arrogant and Andrew who is a shy boy. The family owns tea plantations up in Kandy (I think Nuwara Eliya as that’s where most tea plantations are). While living with them, Rosie meets Usha, the beautiful daughter of a servant working in Huxley House and because of Rosie’s familiarity of Tamil language, the two girls become best friends. Then the Second World War starts with the Japanese bombing Pearl Harbor and capturing many of the British colonies–from China to Burma, Malaya and Singapore and is on the verge of attacking Ceylon. Then there’s the blossoming love story between Andrew and Usha and when Andrew goes to fight in the war, Usha confides a secret to Rosie and Rosie must protect the loved ones at all costs.
Let’s start with the plot.–this is a historical fiction and I do like the plot well. A tear jerking instances with emotional and heartbreaking story makes the story more interesting–particularly the fact that Usha becomes pregnant our of wedlock, which is in the eyes of Tamil culture is a bad thing and how Rosie helps with that situation by taking her to Madras, India, shows true friendship and couragement. The story also felt realistic to me as well–reading about familiar places such as Kandy (where my mother is originally from), Colombo (where I currently live) to the down south of Sri Lanka as well as the certain schools such as Girl’s High School (this school still exists even today in Kandy), Galle Face Hotel (which still exists even today in Sri Lanka) and University of Colombo where Graham studies (the university still exists today and is one of the top universities in Sri Lanka) shows how much the author has done tremendous research about Ceylon and I try to imagine what those places where I visited in the present day looked like back then. The fact about Tamils working in plantations is also realistic that even today, still, the Tamils work these tea plantations (though now these tea plantations no longer owned by the British but by local people). As I have mentioned earlier, I was always curious about the history of Ceylon during the WWII and not much was there about the time during the war but I was glad to read the book and experience what life really was like during the war. Characters wise, I do like Rosie and Usha as well as Andrew very well. Towards the end, it gets emotional and sad with tear jerking instances but it was a happy ending. The love story between Andrew and Usha felt emotional and real and the romance blossoming between Graham and Rosie. Only thing is, I know in the end they all move back to India but I wished I know if they moved back to England when both India and Sri Lanka gained independence and if Usha followed them to England but otherside, I enjoyed reading this book! The writing was really good with descriptions of the places in Kandy and Colombo making the reader feel like they are in Ceylon with Rosie–the nature and the birds all sound realistic. Even the food descriptions made the reader feel hungry and yearning for the spicy Sri Lankan meal!
Overall, this is an emotional, tear-jerking and heartbreaking book, that will make the reader tearful and will take you to Ceylon and India during the British rule and war. Will keep you up all night reading this book! Kudos to author for writing a book based on my country! Worth five stars!
Many thanks to Netgalley and Bookouture for the ARC. The review is based on my honest opinion only.
Sharon Maas was born into a prominent political family in Georgetown, Guyana, in 1951. She was educated in England, Guyana, and, later, Germany. After leaving school, she worked as a trainee reporter with the Guyana Graphic in Georgetown and later wrote feature articles for the Sunday Chronicle as a staff journalist.
Her first novel, Of Marriageable Age, is set in Guyana and India and was published by HarperCollins in 1999. In 2014 she moved to Bookouture, and now has ten novels under her belt. Her books span continents, cultures, and eras. From the sugar plantations of colonial British Guiana in South America, to the French battlefields of World War Two, to the present-day brothels of Mumbai and the rice-fields and villages of South India, Sharon never runs out of stories for the armchair traveller.