Cover Image: Brotherless Night

Brotherless Night

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Until I read the Author's Note at the end of this book, I thought this was a personal, albeit fictionalized, account of her time during the Sri Lankan civil war. It isn't - it's apparently a fictional account researched over very many years and written in the first person!

Any author who can make you think that is a force to reckon with! I can't wait to read more of her books in future.

The title of the book resonated with me in many places, but at the end of it, I didn't feel it. Mind you, I felt the book, oh I SO felt the book, but the title seemed a bit unjustified to me at the end.

I don't really want to write about the plot of the book - you can read that on any platform that discusses books. I do, however, want to write about how I felt when I read it 3 days flat.

I cried, sighed, and quivered... This book was so great that I ended up highlighting several portions in it. It has been written in the first person voice, but took into account so many perspectives, and didn't shy away from expressing them and providing valuable insights through them too.

When you read books like this, you are forced to examine your privilege, forced to contemplate the ridiculousness of this whole power game and the mercilessness of the human race. And yet, in the face of this sea of monstrosity, little paper boats of hope and help and kindness stand tall. Are they enough though?

Ganeshananthan writes beautifully, piercingly, and in a very well-paced way. She creates a brilliant world - there was a little more show than tell, but it wasn't jarring. It wasn't opportunistic. It wasn't gimicky. It was just really really worth reading!

Was this review helpful?

I couldn't put this down. It was incandescent. It was searing. It made my heart physically ache, and made me do a thousand searches for nonfiction follow-ups. I am 100% going to read Ganeshananthan's previous book. the writing for this just completely gripped me, and once I got going in earnest, it just snowballed.

The family of the novel's protagonist Sashi is complex, and the book spends the entire time slowly unwinding the moral complexity of strongly held beliefs, and unravelling the word 'terrorist'. I was struck by the way Ganeshananthan made the entire cast of characters possible to understand, and you could see consistency of character even as motivation and ideologies changed. Truly can't wait to insist that everyone read this in 2023 and beyond.

*Thanks to Random House, NetGalley for the ARC*

Was this review helpful?

This book is the reason I love to read historical fiction books. This is a time in history I had no idea even happened but is so essential to being told. The whole time I read I was diving into Sri Lankan culture and the civil uprising that happened. So much of this book is based in fact and it made my heart hurt that it goes so quickly unnoticed.
This book was a marathon and not a sprint but it will remain with me for a very long time.
I loved the voice that this story is told in. Sashi is raw and vulnerable and open throughout the book. You feel her pain as if it’s your own.

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House for an arc of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Was this review helpful?

This is an interesting way to introduce a lot of people to what happened in Sri Lanka in the 80s. It reads like a true story & grips you from the beginning. Great way to learn about history.

Thanks to the publisher & NetGalley for advanced copy in exchange for my honest review

Was this review helpful?

A beautifully written novel that will sweep you up and pull you into the tragedy of Sri Lanka. Sashi, 16 at the start, is focused on following in the footsteps of her father and older brother by becoming a doctor but life quickly spins out of control. She's got four brothers-young Tamil men who become targets. Her brothers' pal K drops out of medical school to join the Tigers, later becoming a leader who will reach into Sashi's life to involve her as well. She makes it to medical school but it's hardly a haven with the politics firing up even among the students. Sashi finds herself helping at a field hospital while a first year student, her commitment to helping people overriding her disquiet and distress over the politics and violence. The situation in Sri Lanka did not receive the attention it deserved at the time nor now but this novel, so heartfelt, so horrifying, so emotional will tug and stick in your memory. Sashi's narration is intimate and expansive both and at times some things become imagination are described succinctly - making them all the worse. SO much random violence, so much needless death. It's a propulsive read that made me turn the pages because I was caught up in Sashi's world and needed very much to know what would happen to characters I'd come to care about. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. A terrific read - highly recommend.

Was this review helpful?

An eye-opening account of the Sri Lankan 30-year civil war through the experiences of a med school student who suffered the loss of 2 brothers and multiple friends. Her story, though fiction, reads like a memoir and resonates with a heart-felt struggle in the midst of an impossible situation. The author does a magnificent job explaining the horrors of a civil conflict on both individuals and families, as well as a nation.

Thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing for the ARC to read and review.

Was this review helpful?

Brotherless Night by V.V. Ganeshananthan

Published: January 3, 2023
Random House
Pages: 368
Genre: Literary Fiction
KKECReads Rating: 5/5
I received a copy of this book for free, and I leave my review voluntarily.

V. V. Ganeshananthan is the author of Brotherless Night and Love Marriage, which was longlisted for the Women's Prize and named one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post. She teaches in the MFA program at the University of Minnesota and co-hosts the Fiction/Non/Fiction podcast on Literary Hub, which is about the intersection of literature and the news.

“How could one word be enough?”

What happens when war takes over your country, and people band together, claiming it for your good- but they are just as deadly as any enemy? How would seeing the dead body of someone around your age lying in the street for days mark you? Losing a brother to “the cause”? Having two brothers run away to join this cause- only to find they did horrible things. This is the Sri Lankan reality.

Holy buckets. This book was heavy. And the weight just continued to pile on as I read. I cannot imagine seeing the things these characters did.

While this is a work of fiction, it is based on actual events, and it’s terrifying. I cannot imagine witnessing everything you know going up in flames and having people you love disappear.

This was a powerful, beautiful novel that will sucker punch you page after page. Our main narrator was so incredibly brave, so bold, and so angry.

I cannot describe the pain within these pages. It breaks my heart knowing this happened, and happens, in faraway places. And that so many are comfortable saying, “there is nothing we can do.”

This book is about doing something. Surviving. Witnessing. And refusing to be silenced. This powerful novel will shatter your heart and leave you sobbing. Beautifully written, eloquently delivered, and powerfully emotional, this is a must-read.

Was this review helpful?

The storyof the Sri Lankan civil war is told through the life of Sashi as she grows up and goes to medical school. The book pays painstaking detail to what real life is like in the middle of such conflict and violence for a bright young lady. She sees the impact of war on each of her brothers. The conflict between real life and the values and mores of the medical profession are seen all too vividly in Sashi and her choices.

Was this review helpful?

THIS is why we read. I knew nothing about the civil war in Sri Lanka - didn’t even know there was one - and so recently! This book transported me to the beautiful cultures within the country with a plot revolving around a family and their friends before, during, and after this war. It’s a story about family and choices and circumstances beyond control. As I was reading, I kept looking up words and places online - so interested in the history. Heartfelt thanks to Random House for the advanced copy. Go read this one. Choose for your book club - you won’t stop talking about it.

Was this review helpful?

Brotherless Night is set during the Sri Lanken Civil War, and centers on one family with four brothers and one daughter. The narrator is the sixteen year old daughter named Sashi who dreams of becoming a doctor. Her three oldest brothers become part of the resistance, slowly she looses them to the terrorism either through death or allegiance to the fight. Her youngest brother is grounded in the belief they need to get out to save themselves.

This novel brings the fight to life in a striking way through the eyes of a teenager. Her characters reminds us that war is often suffered by those who are not in the fight. The timeframe of this novel has me the same age as the daughter which had me reflecting on what different worlds we lived as teens.

This historical fiction novel is a coming of age where every lessons comes at a painful cost for survival.

Thank you Random House Publishing Group for the complimentary copy of this novel.

Was this review helpful?

Unflinching. Brilliant. Complex. These descriptions apply to Brotherless Night and the novel’s protagonist, Sashi, as she navigates a world that has been torn apart by civil war. This is a heartbreaking coming of age story of what might have been, a portrait of sibling relationships, a study of how people navigate impossible choices with loss on both sides. Highly recommend for individual readers or book clubs.
I knew very little about Sri Lankan history or culture before reading this book. The rich descriptions provided just enough context to help me find my footing without breaking the fourth wall too often explaining practices, foods, etc. that required no explanation to the characters within the story. Thank you to NetGalley for the chance to read this one early

Was this review helpful?

Thanks to NetGalley for this advance reader copy in exchange for a review. This review will appear on Goodreads immediately.
Shedding light on a civil war in Jaffna in the 80s, this book was compelling, fast paced, and most importantly worth reading, it was interesting and complex yet relatable in a way.
Worth doing in book clubs with much to discuss, I leave this with a solid 4*

Was this review helpful?

Where do I even begin? This book was thoroughly engrossing and important. "Brotherless Night" brings us back to the war in Sri Lanka that lasted decades. Although fiction, it shows us a full picture of the history that many civilians or dealt with during such a hostile time. With many different sides fighting for control, the true causalities of the war were not the militants, Indian, or Sri Lankan governments - but the ordinary people of the country.

The book was a slower read, but I got so wrapped up in the story that it didn't even matter. I appreciated the author not only setting the scene, but making you feel as if you were apart of Sashi's life and family. She is a fierce character that you can't help rooting for and highlight what women can do in the face of violence, war, and change.

I think there are quite a few important lessons this book demonstrates, but one that shine is the need for truth, the need for accurate reporting, the need for the voiceless to have a say.

Was this review helpful?

I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This review is also posted on Goodreads.

This was the first book I read by this author, and it certainly will not be my last. As a reader I was brought along on Sashi's journey and was with her through her experiences living in Sri Lanka during a civil war in the 1980's. Prior to reading this book I had no knowledge of this civil war, which occurred while I was growing up. This novel did a good job of explaining what it would be like to live in a civil war, faced with impossible choices to make. The characters had to choose between staying with their family, or joining forces with those who they felt would make a better future for their families. Many of the decisions made came with consequences such as kidnapping, torture, and death. Sashi dealt with the loss of home and loss of friends and family to the conflict. In many of the situations it was not clear which was the morally right choice to make, and I think that was the author's intent, to show us that in a war there are times when there is no clear division between "good" and "evil". The role the governments played in the war was disheartening and there were many parts that were difficult to read. This story will stay with me for a long time.

Was this review helpful?

There is a civil war going on in Sri Lanka in 1981- and sixteen-year-old Sasha reveals what it means to be swept up in the violence and confusion. The good guys are ruthless, people she loves take incredibly cruel actions, and Sashi finds that even following her conscience has regrettable consequences. Author V. V. Ganeshananthan cast us as witnesses alongside Sashi to the scorched earth unfolding in the wake of the fight.

Here there is no righteous way to fight a pure fight for justice. Sashi loses her brothers and friends to the Tamil Tigers, the revolutionary group rising up in response to the oppression forced upon them by the Sinhalese majority. As a medical student she is recruited to help but discovers the leaders stooping to tactics no better than the enemies they are fighting.

It is not new to see lives obliterated by war. In “Brotherless Night” this pain is strikingly brought to life through the eyes of Sashi, a beautifully realized character who reminds us horror is often suffered by humanity in places not necessarily illuminated by our newsfeed or social media trends.

Thank you to Random House Publishing and NetGalley for providing an advance reader copy in exchange for an honest review. #BrotherlessNight #NetGalley

Was this review helpful?

Brotherless Night tells the story of Sashi, a medical student, and her family, including four brothers, who are caught up in the unrest, violence, and ultimately, war in Sri Lanka in the 1980s. They are Tamil in a majority Sinhalese country. Sashi adores her brothers, three of whom become involved with the organization working for Tamil independence.

This book was a bit out of my typical comfort zone, but it is good to mix it up once in a while. A fictional account that reads like a memoir, It is a tough story because so much of what occurs is not fiction. It really happened and continues to happen all over the world as in so many cases the revolutionaries fighting for independence turn out to be as dangerous as the oppressors as does the outside forces that intervene.

This account of man’s injustices to his fellow man is beautifully written and engrossing. The author writes of unimaginable atrocities with sensitivity and pathos. Despite the wrenching honesty of the novel, the strength of those who survive is powerful and somehow uplifting.

It is an important book and should be read.

Was this review helpful?

Set in Jaffna in the 80s amid a civil war, this novel is a gripping portrait of the impact of war. It's a gripping and haunting read that explores the importance of stories and human connection. And the ending is simply *perfect.*

Was this review helpful?

Brotherless Night is an intimate look at the early years of the 26-year civil war in Sri Lanka told from the perspective of Sashi, a medical student, who lives with her family in a village in the Tamil town called Jaffna. The novel opens in 1981, when a 16 year old Sashi has dreams of becoming a physician like her late grandfather, a respected gynecologist. But Sashi’s dreams are derailed when she and her family experience escalating violence after the Sinhalese police are dispatched to Jaffna to insure that the party in power would be favored in impending elections. The Sinhalese police engage in rioting and rampaging, and the indignities suffered by the Tamil minority gave rise to Tamil militants who actively recruited Sri Lankan Tamil boys, trained them in India, armed them, and sent them back to wage war. By the mid-1980’s the Tamil Tigers had destroyed all of the other militant groups and were prepared to slaughter Tamil citizens and moderates to achieve a separate Tamil state.

The first terrorist Sashi met was K, a promising medical student and a neighbor who had deftly tended to burns that she sustained in a kitchen accident. K left university for the movement, ascending the ranks of the Tamil Tigers. Sashi’s eldest brother, Niranjan, a newly engaged physician, was murdered in the riots while living in Colombo. Two other brothers, Dayalan and Seelan, joined the Tigers along with K, and Dayalan was killed in the war. Sashi’s youngest brother, Aran, although disinterested in joining the movement, was repeatedly rounded up and detained by the army, and was eventually sent to safety in England.

The first half of the book is bogged down with unnecessary details of Sashi’s education. It picks up when Sashi realizes that she has an obligation greater than the one to her family and she becomes involved in the nationalism taking hold in Jaffna. At the behest of K, Sashi initially works as a medic in a field hospital tending to both injured Tigers and citizens, including a heartbreaking young woman who was brutally gang raped after watching her brothers being murdered. After the Indian Peace Keeping Force killed 87 staff members and patients at the hospital where Sashi worked, Sashi joins her medical school professor, a Tamil feminist and dissident, in working on a secret project compiling the mounting human rights violations.

Because this is an intimate drama that carries the burden of a larger history, V. V. Ganeshananthan does not explain the genesis of the conflict, except to explain that after decades of being colonized by the Dutch, Portuguese and the British, Sri Lanka was left with “people divided by colonial powers, ancestral angers and bullheaded pride.” Although the context of the horrors are obscure to those who did not follow the complicated details of Sri Lanka’s decades-long civil war, involving government officials, Tamil Tigers, Marxist militants, Indian peacekeepers and more, Sashi is the reader’s guide to comprehending the mounting atrocities. This is a morally complex novel that intimately explores a family fractured by civil war and a young doctor navigating a world of turmoil.

Was this review helpful?

What a beautiful beautiful book. I was a little aware of the conflict in Jaffna in the 80's but this book brings it to the fore. The book reads like a memoir.

Very powerful book and I feel enriched by reading it

Was this review helpful?

Brotherless Night is a historical fiction novel set during the Sri Lankan Civil War, and focuses on a young Tamil woman that finds herself torn between her duty to her family, her calling as a doctor, and her role as a political activist. We read as Sashi grows, experiences grief and trauma, and learns how to make her own choices for herself. I believe the author did an excellent job at portraying the war and the toll it took on Sri Lankans, particularly on the women. From my place of privilege as a white American, such violence and destruction can seem centuries past, something to be read about in history books — this book brought a much needed reality check for me. At times, I almost forgot it was fiction as I was reading. I’ve come out of the other end of this book with a better understanding of the strife and conflict taking place not long before my own generation, of what civilian life looks like as a country is torn apart from within.
With all of this to say in support of Brotherless Night, you might be wondering why I give only 3 stars. Well, whereas the book truly shined in the disturbingly realistic descriptions and accounts of the Sri Lankan Civil War, I felt that the narrative of Sashi was not particularly emotionally gripping. Her voice felt removed from the story as she recounted her life and all she witnessed and took part in, so much so that at times the book felt dry. It feels as though Sashi is telling her story to a stranger, and while she is being open and vulnerable, there is a certain level of intimacy whose absence is noticeable and unfortunate.
I am grateful that I read Brotherless Night, and will certainly look out for more material relating to Sri Lankan politics. If you are looking for a book to introduce you to this topic, I would recommend giving Brotherless Night a read.

Was this review helpful?