Swimming in the Monsoon Sea by Shyam Selvadurai

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Stars: *****

I received a copy of this book to review from Tundra Books back in the Fall but it slipped into the back burner of books to read. Now that I’ve read it, I wish I had read it sooner! I’m counting it towards the Book Around the World and Young Adult Challenges too.

Summary: The setting is Sri Lanka, 1980, and it is the season of monsoons, Fourteen-year-old Amrith is submerged in the cheerful, well-to-do lifestyle in which his vibrant Auntie Bundle and kindly Uncle Lucky have raised him. Still, Amrith can’t seem to shake the blurred memories of his life “before,” when his doting mother was still alive. School is out for the summer and Amrith’s holiday plans seem unpromising. Until, like and unexpected monsoon, his cousin arrives from Canada, and his life suddenly becomes storm-tossed. Shakespeare’s Othello, with its powerful them of disastrous jealousy, plays in the backdrop of the drama in which Amrith finds himself immersed.

Swimming in the Monsoon Sea is a coming of age novel. However unlike most coming of age novels I’ve read, this one isn’t set in America and it focuses on the changes a boy goes through rather than a girl. Since I’m used to reading about female changes, it surprised me to read about parts of the male anatomy, including how they look and what they sometimes do on their own. A large portion of the story is about love, “all kinds” of love.

I enjoyed reading about life in Sri Lanka and how it differs from life in Canada and America. You can tell the author is writing about a place he has lived (in this case, where he spent his childhood) because the descriptions of places and architecture are so detailed and descriptive. While there are many things about Canadian Life I would never want to give up, there are some parts of Sri Lankan life I wouldn’t mind living with.

Since this book takes place in a foreign country, the names of people can sometimes be hard to pronounce, for example: Mrs. Wanigasekera and Mrs. Jayalukshmi Coomaraswamy. This only poses a problem if you try to read the book aloud of course. Singhalese (Language of Sri Lanka) words are scattered throughout the book, which I enjoyed. I like learning words in other languages.

The book is marketed for ages 13+. I’d say 16+ or 14+ if your child were very mature. While the book would be ideal for a boy, a girl would enjoy the book too. Even the parts about male changes would be interesting as all girls want to know what boys are going through too.

Other Reviews

Things Mean A Lot (MUCH better review!)

Ms. Bookish’s daughter created a short movie based on the book, it’s great!

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About Kathleen

I've been a nonfiction lover for as long as I can remember. I love children's nonfiction as well and love to share my knowledge and the books I gained them from, with the world. I wish more people would give nonfiction a chance.