ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 42

Genuine feeling expressed with honesty

Christine – a memoir by Christine Spittel Wilson. Reviewed by Dr. Mark Amerasinghe. Perera Hussein. Rs. 690. Available in all bookshops.

Dear Christine,

After completing your beautifully crafted book, I had to write to you. Your book reinforced everything that I wrote after reading 'Bitter Berry'. That prose, fluid, uncluttered, non-fussy, un-gilded, elegant, saying what needed saying with such economy. I've always believed that style and content are two faces of the same coin, like mass and energy. Authentic feelings came out clear in authentic writing. Yes, I think that sums it up - authentic, genuine, deep feeling expressed so honestly.

How clearly your aim...'This is my aim...' has been right on target. True, you are enthusiastic about Kenya and you speak with feeling of the place, but that feeling cannot match the deep love, amounting almost to reverence, for this land, and your prayer of hope. When I read that, I told myself, if Christine feels that way, we can't be in such a bad way. You come out so gently, so persuasively, so non-stridently, as a true 'Daughter of Lanka', a worthy daughter of one of Lanka's stoutest Sons. The daughter of that doughty son who 'Hailed Lanka' thus...

'Let others belaud the ways of the West,
Or homeland or township, wherever it be,
However mighty, however blest-
Lanka my Island, you are all to me.

'But oh for the trails that the wild men tread,
For the hills that are haunts of the hiving bee,
For the twittering bill and the branching head:
Oh Island, wild Island, you are home to me.'

Yes, this land is home to you Christine. When you write about your stay in England, your grooming as it were, I felt that you were more an observer and an obedient pupil, doing your duty by a loving and doting parent, who genuinely felt, that you should grow up to be a woman conforming to a certain pattern, yes an observer of the scene, rather than an avid participant. The style of writing was the same, but the tone was different. I may be wrong, but that's how I felt. This seemed to be confirmed later, after your return, when you grumbled to your father about some chore you had to perform, and your understanding and loving father, gently reminded you that it was your mother's wish and you should do it to please her.

My deep regret is that I met your dear father only on two occasions; and that too, all too briefly. I never met your mother. The family relationships were clearly deeply loving, and there are some poignant lines which brought tears to my eyes. The most poignant was your diary entry, where you simply state that all your friends had brothers and sisters, but you had none. Just one line which conveyed so much grief and hurt, without sentimentality. Almost unwittingly, you give the reader an insight into the different strengths of your two parents who both loved you deeply, but displayed that love, in almost diametrically opposed, but reconciled ways.

Finally, the very human Christine emerges from a crucible of joys, sorrows and deep love, a crucible that was torched by three flames, a loving, doting father and mother, and a loving, crucially supportive, strong, relatively silent husband. So, naturally, the book is written by Christine Spittel Wilson.

You will forgive me for having moved into your inner space - but your book led me there unerringly.
With deep thanks and affection,

By Mark

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.