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Brotherless Night

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It is the 1980s in Jaffna, Sri Lanka and the Tamil minority are tired of their poor treatment by the government. They are demanding a separate homeland for their people. The country is on the verge of civil war. As tensions rise and violence grows everyone is choosing a side.

Sashi (16) has dreamt her entire life of becoming a doctor, but as the opportunity nears, the civil war breaks out and her dreams of medical school are interrupted. Her four older brothers and their best friend, K, are quickly swept up in the violence. Her parents are broken hearted when one son is killed and two leave home to fight for the cause. Following just one year of medical school, Sashi secretly agrees to assist the Tamil Tigers, the minority group seeking a separate homeland, by volunteering at one of their medical clinics. Sashi is confused as to what she believes in as the violence worsens, a favorite professor is killed, then Indian peacekeepers arrive only to commit even more atrocities. Ultimately Sashi chooses to support a feminist professor secretly documenting said human rights violations. When she is a risk of being found out her life will change in big and small ways.

The story is told in first person narration. A moving and emotional story of the moral journey each must take and a testament to the impact of war and the bonds of home. The book is very well written. Although it did feel unnecessarily slow at times, I could not put it down. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Brotherless Night is scheduled for release on January 3, 2023. Thanks to #NetGalley and #RandomHousePublishingGroup for the advanced copy in exchange for a fair and honest review. #RandomHouse

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Brotherless Night by V V Ganeshanthan is the heart-wrenching saga of a Tamil family caught in the throes of the Sri-Lankan Civil war between the Tamil and Sinhalese population. The entire story is narrated by the protagonist Sashi, one among 5 siblings, as she deals with losing brothers and her lifelong love and her friends to the unnecessary and brutal conflict. The prose is as beautiful as it is heart-breaking. It brings to life visions of the atrocities being wrought by the warring factions on each other as the rest of the population tries to go about their daily lives. The Sri Lankan civil war lasted over two decades and claimed umpteen lives. Even today as the nation is dealing with an economic and political crisis, one cannot help but wonder why human beings are bent on bringing misery to themselves and to others. The book was unputdownable to the end and I'm definitely going to be recommending this one over and over again. Brotherless Night may just be the best book I have read and reviewed on Netgalley this year. Loved it!!

Thanks to Net Galley, V V Ganeshananthan and Random House Publishing for the ARC.

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A heartbreaking tale that felt true. A young woman's firsthand account of how war and terror stole the futures of a generation in Sri Lanka. This was a struggle I knew nothing about and it will stay with me as I see other populations struggle with tyranny on all sides.

Beautifully written and important.

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Powerful read, reads like a memoir. Our narrator takes us through her life, starting from around 16 in Sri Lanka, when all she wanted was to be a doctor, through the civil war in Sri Lanka that gave rise to the Tamil Tigers, and pulled her in thanks to love of country and family/friends, and finally her escape to NYC. Sashi has 4 brothers, and thanks to the civil war, loses all but one, whether to death or the Tigers or both. She wants to help in any way she can - to treat and heal with her limited medical training. But then she is pulled farther into both the Tigers, and those seeking to inform the world of the atrocities happening in Sri Lanka. This novel is both beautiful and devastating.

Sixteen-year-old Sashi wants to become a doctor. But over the next decade, as a vicious civil war subsumes Sri Lanka, her dream takes her on a different path as she watches those around her, including her four beloved brothers and their best friend, get swept up in violent political ideologies and their consequences. She must ask herself: is it possible for anyone to move through life without doing harm?

Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for the free ARC in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed herein are my own.

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Evil is not limited by what you can personally imagine.
from Brotherless Night by V. V. Ganeshananthan

Brotherless Night is a shattering novel. It reads like a memoir, the narrator’s voice so direct and real, or a journalistic retelling of a true story. I have read books that touched on the Sri Lanka Civil War between the majority population Sinhalese and the Tamil minority. Ethnic violence by the Sinhalese against the Tamil resulted in a backlash; the Tamil Tigers arose, over time becoming equally as fearsome in their civilian attacks. Boys were taken hostage, forced to serve in the army of one side or the other. India’s peacekeeping force tried to disarm both sides; the Tigers attacked them with suicide bombers. The conflict went on for decades.

In this novel, I was transported deep into the experiences of civilians who are inspired to action, either to defend their people or to serve all people. They witness first hand terrorism and suffering, all the horror of war. Friends turn on friends, student against teacher, siblings are divided, families displaced.

The novel begins before the war when Sashi and her brother and his friend K are preparing to study medicine, meeting up at the library. When the beloved older brother is killed in an attack, two of her brothers and the friend join the Tamil Tigers. When the Sinhalese round up village boys and takes her youngest brother, her mother and the woman of the village gather in protest. “What will we do when the men are speechless,” the leader cries out, demanding the boys’ release.

Sashi wants nothing more than to heal. She is drawn to volunteer in a Tamil field hospital, treating cadre and civilian victims of the war. Faced with one moral choice after another, Sashi is drawn into overt and covert activities. When a patient, a victim of a horrific attack, wrecks her revenge in a dramatic way, Sashi is moved to become political.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians were caught between the armies while the United Nations and the world watched without sending aid.

Ganeshananthan’s novel is hard to put down and hard to read.

I received a free egalley from the publisher through NetGalley. My review is fair and unbiased.

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I really enjoyed this fictional take on the civil war in Sri Lanka. It offers a personal, softer and human perspective to the conflict, particularly on the side viewed as the problematic one. It’s an insightful and engaging look at the injustices, how violence arises, and the attempts to hold on to normalcy versus doing what is right.

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Prior to reading this novel, I knew very little about the war in Sri Lanka, let alone that it spanned 25 years! This novel gives us a glimpse into the conflict on the island off the coast of India.

Sashi is the only girl among her siblings. Life in her town of Jaffna as a Tamil in Sri Lanka has its challenges but the enjoys time at the library studying and reading with her 3 older brothers. She dreams of being a doctor like her eldest brother who lets her read his medical textbooks has she prepares for exams. But then the Jaffna Library is burned down and trouble is simmering between the Sinhalese and the Tamil. While studying for her exams at her grandmother's home, her eldest brother is killed and her grandmother's home is burned down. Two of her brothers join the militant group known as the Tigers. This is the story of a determined girl, trying to fulfill her dreams of being a medical doctor amidst the chaos and violence of the war. She has to decide where her loyalties lie and make sense of the atrocities that her brothers might be taking part in as she figures out where her place is during this difficult time.

This novel was intense. The detail in which the author explains the political situation in the country really helped me understand how complex this war was. The internal turmoil that Sashi dealt with as she was coming of age and into her early adults years was heartbreaking. This was such an eye-opening read.

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House for this early review copy. The novel will be available on 1/3/2023.

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A Brotherless Night is a searing novel about the struggles of war faced by a family of four brothers and a sister, the choices they make in the midst of a lesser-known point in history (civil war in Sri Lanka). This book is so well-written, you feel that you are there and experiencing for yourself. It is un-put-downable, incredibly written, and an amzing read.

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Powerful and moving -
A whole lot of history I knew nothing about - a story about a young girl who comes of age and changes during Sri Lanka’s war. Emotional and heartbreaking - a family torn apart, brother taken and leaving. Could not put this down

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Book review:
Brotherless Night
By V.V. Ganeshananthan

Sashi, a 16 year old student in Sri Lanka, is put thru many trials and fears as guerilla warfare is erupting all around their small village. Friends, brothers, and family are fractured by the cruel events of murder and unspeakable actions. The village is of Tamil ethnicity and wants independence from the Sinhala, who rule the country.

The family of four brothers and one sister are all good students-striving to be medical doctors. Sashi tells their story and the fear and destruction around them. Their fates change all the time and left me gasping at what happens and how they manage to survive. I couldn’t put this book down, each page brought new adventure.

Sashi must decide if she will help the gorillas with medical expertise even though she is not part of their cause. She is befriended by a professor who has been in England and together they begin to document the human rights violations.

The book made me think of all the ideals people have and what destruction can come from them. Set during the long Sri Lanka civil war there is so much to deal with for everyone.

This book will appeal to those who like a fast moving, thoughtful story of love, strength and sacrifice. It is very well written. It is a testament to courage and the impact of civil war.

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I rate this historical fiction book a solid 4 stars. It is set during the Sri Lankan civil war, between the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority. The war lasts more than 25 years. The book centers on one Tamil family and how the vicious war affects them. Both sides kill and torture civilians. The narrator is 16 year old Sashi in 1981. She wants to be a doctor, a very difficult goal in a male dominated society.
The title comes from night spent worrying about her missing oldest brother, Niranjan. He has gone to find a safe place for the family while Sinhalese rioters are murdering Tamil civilians.
Two quotes:
Quote from a revered teacher: "Open your books, read while you can, and remember: there are people in our country who would burn what we love and laugh at the flames. "
Life in an underground bunker: "When we ran to the bunkers we tried to remember to carry our torches so that we could check for snakes. Sometimes there were cobras in the bunkers; sometimes after a storm foul smelling water filled them and we rose from them rank and cold."
Thanks to Random House for sending me this eARC through NetGalley.
#BrotherlessNight #NetGalley.

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Brotherless Night by V.V. Ganeshananthan is the story of The Sri Lankan Civil War. People caught in a war: lives lost, homes abandoned, and what it takes to survive.

One day, a tragedy brings Sashi and K together. Their lives come together in unsuspecting ways but never how they imagined.

As The Sri Lankan Civil War breaks out, Sashi's family is a minority fighting for freedom only to be imprisoned by their so-called liberators. Her dreams of becoming a doctor are stifled until K asks for a favor.

Sashi finds herself playing for both sides. Is she a terrorist? The answer is not as simple as one might think.

This a fictional story. It's so well-written that it reads as if it happened. It may have happened to you.

How the story unfolds leads to a deep understanding of war. It answers what leads to madness and what it takes to survive a war from 1983 to 2009.

Unbelievably remarkable.

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I wasn't aware that there was a civil war in Sri Lanka when I started to read this book. The American networks and newspapers rarely cover international news if it doesn’t concern us directly, The book was enlightening towards what happened from 1983 to 2009 with a long-lasting violent and painful war.

The book was narrated by Sashi about her life and relationships with her family and friends. It feels like it could be an autobiography of how she survived during the war. She was proud of her mother, Amma, her father, Appa, and her four brothers: Niranjan, Dayalan, Seelan, and Aran. She also had great admiration for her brother’s friend who was called K. She, along with Niranjan and K, were enrolled in the University of Jaffna. Her father told her if she wanted to be a doctor, studying would be now and forever.

Sashi said there is no single day in which a war starts. It’s gradual over time with a series of conflicts. There were two militant groups: the Tamils in the northern and eastern part of Sri Lanka and the Sinhalese in all other areas. Sashi’s comfortable world changed overnight when the Sinhalese policemen burned down their library destroying 90,000 volumes. “It was though the entire town had a death in the family.” In 1983, the Sinhalese men searched for Tamil houses in Colombo and that's when Black July marked the beginning of the war.

The book is intense as there’s constant fear and fighting from both sides of men and women who were tortured and killed. The older brothers stepped away from school to fight in the movement to protect the Tamils. People were killed in homes, streets and trains. Everything was filthy and people were in shock. Gone was their life – family gatherings, beautiful pictures and heirlooms and events -- as they once remembered it.

Throughout the book, the reader has to keep track of several people -- most with long and foreign names. Sashi was studying to be a doctor and her teacher’s name was Anjali Premachandran. It’s also strenuous for the reader to keep up with the continuous devastations that happened in most of the book. The conflict shows us how two divided parts can explode into the most violent destruction of the land and people. The author made us aware of the brutal horror that occurred with many layers. “So many have given up their lives for freedom!”

My thanks to V. V. Ganeshananthan, Random House and NetGalley for allowing me to read this advanced copy with an expected release date of January 3, 2023.

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Review copy provided by the publisher.

There are so many ways that a novel about a real and recent civil war can go wrong. It can be partisan, showing the saints of one side and the demons of the other; it can be clinical, with a distance better suited to nonfiction. It can be maudlin and sentimental about the joys of the world before the war. It can devolve into swagger about the toughness and bravery of certain people and elide their suffering. Ganeshananthan is writing about the Sri Lankan Civil War, and she threads the needle perfectly, dodging all of these things to give us a vivid, specific, humane novel of a young woman's family inside a shattering conflict.

Sashi wants to become a doctor--and this is not a tragedy about how war stole that dream for her, it is a thoughtful and nuanced book about someone who keeps pursuing that dream in the face of great difficulties but not to the exclusion of all other things. She has four brothers and a family friend from their block, a young man she feels a strong connection to, and having those five young men with their varying experiences gives Ganeshananthan a chance to portray a diversity of opinion and experience. Some of the young men are frankly described by the protagonist as terrorists. Others are more acted upon than acting, or carve out places to stand apart from the politics. Both author and protagonist are extremely clear about how oppression and war shape people's choices with no ideal outcomes, no pure hands, but in a beautifully specific way, so that no one character is The Representative Of This Or That but instead all remain fully portrayed, three-dimensionally human characters.

Does one need to content warn past saying "this is about the Sri Lankan Civil War"? I guess the content warning here is: Ganeshananthan is not interested in giving you a sanitized vision of oppression and civil war. She is not interested in looking away. So there is violence, including sexual violence, and loss and fear and anger and all of the things that a book on this subject needs not to be a travesty of itself. What do you think a book about a modern civil war would have in it, yes, it has that. Done well. But it absolutely does.

I loved this book so much. It made me cry four separate times (Sashi's grandmother's reaction to a crucial event, oh God that broke me). It made me look up all sorts of things about Sri Lankan history, not because I needed them to understand the book (Ganeshananthan puts everything you need in the text) but because I wanted to know more. I immediately requested her previous book. It is so good, it is so clear and vivid and strongly written and so very, very good. I have been chattering about this book in most conversations I've had this week. I told the nurse at my grandmother's medical appointment about it. If you get monetary gifts or bookstore gift cards this time of year, by all means consider buying it in the new year. It's overwhelming and wonderful.

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Hard to believe that Brotherless Night is not a memoir. I knew nothing about the Sri Lankan civil war when I started Brotherless Night, but once I began I couldn’t put it down. Ganeshananthan goes on my author-to-watch list.

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I devoured Brotherless Night. I knew little about the politics of Sri Lanka and its civil war and was immediately lured into its painful history as seen through the eyes of a Tamil family. The story centers around an ordinary family, mother, father and 4 children, 3 boys and 1 girl. The family is torn apart as one brother is senselessly killed when he goes off to find a protected place for his sister and grandmother as the civil unrests erupted in Colombo, the capital, and they are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Her studies are interrupted and their house, which was an old family home gets destroyed. It is hard not to feel angry and helpless at the same time.

The writing is tight, and when you are reading you can feel the sense of place, smell and deep frustration of ordinary people who were caught between, the government, the Tamils, and then the Indians. The war is harrowing to read about as so many young peoples’ lives were disrupted and ended by the ongoing conflict.

Most of the book takes place in Jaffna, where the Tamil conflict disrupts every aspect of daily life. Sashi our narrator has finally made her way into medical school, as her dream of going there has finally come to fruition after a few years of waiting. Her older brother had been killed, and she wants to carry on for him and her family. Of course, she is a first-year study with just a hint of training when she is lured into the conflict by a boy from the neighborhood that she has feelings for.

As the book builds there are real lessons in the tragedy of this conflict that is a must read for anyone wanting to understand what happened in Sri Lanka, and even how that war somehow plays into its present situation. All in all, I think this is an important book, and one I am glad I read it.

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Brotherless Night is a very important novel, showing insight into Sri Lanka in the 1980's and civil war. The novel was heartbreaking at times, but very powerful in exploring the tragic circumstances of the main character and her brothers.

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Brotherless Night by V.V. Ganeshananthan is an extraordinary book which I could not put down. Sashi, a young woman with four brothers, is hoping to be a doctor, and when she is accepted into the medical school at the university, she follows in the footsteps of her oldest brother who is already a doctor. However, during this time the brutal civil war in Sri Lanka begins, and Sashi is drawn into the conflict which eventually involves the militant Tamil Tigers, Indian "peacekeeping" troops who are the authors of atrocities against the minority Tamils, and the government Sinhalese troops who are equally violent. This conflict goes on for at least 25 years, and well over 100,000 civilians are brutally killed while at least 50,000 troops on all sides are also killed. Eventually, Sashi is asked by a revered and venerated professor to help write unabashed reports about the turmoil and the violation of human rights in order to tell the truth (still being discussed and evaluated) about the situation.

However, this book is a novel, and the human connections in the book, especially related to Sashi's family, are heartbreaking and tragic among the turmoil and horror of civil war. Descriptions of murder, fear, and atrocities are balanced with the strength of human determination and adamantine familial relationships. Sashi's relationships to her brothers and to her friends and classmates is indomitable but also broken as the book progresses.

Having traveled in Sri Lanka in the late 70s, and having a fairly good historical understanding of the civil war (if such a thing is possible) made this book even more tragic and impossible to put down. Ganeshananthan has masterfully combined the facts of history with a family thrown into war and devastation, and she has left out nothing that helps the reader understand the accompanying brutality and sorrow. The author tells her story with sympathy, empathy, and incisiveness, but she has a deft ability that allows the reader to learn through this process of reading. Few writers can craft a story with such emotional honesty and acceptance. The result is brilliant.

Many thanks to Random House and Net Galley for the opportunity to read this amazing book.

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This book was difficult to get through. Not because of its quality, it’s an incredible book. V. V. Ganeshananthan Really captures just how horrible it must’ve been to be in Sri Lanka in the early 1980s. “Brotherless Night” feels like an important book. I’ll be recommending it to anyone and everyone.

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Brotherless Night – by V. V. Ganeshananthan

This engrossing and heartbreaking novel shines a passionate light on a lesser-known tragedy of modern ethnic warfare, the decades-long civil war targeting the Tamils of Sri Lanka. Told by Sashi, the only girl in a Tamil family with four brothers, three older, one younger, the story begins in 1981, when Sashi is almost 16, living in a loving, comfortable home where education is highly valued. Sashi herself aspires to be a physician, as her eldest brother is, and her other siblings are interested in engineering, literature, and current events.

The Tamils are the minority population in Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon. They did well under British rule, but now that the Sinhalese majority is in control, they face frequent random as well as institutionalized discrimination and violence.

Rebellion against the official government, and the government’s heavy-handed response, leads to years of murder, rape, and displacement. It splits families, such as Sashi’s, with two of her brothers joining the infamous Tamil Tigers, who, while presenting themselves as liberators, usually act like terrorists to Tamil civilians as well as government oppressors.

Sashi herself becomes involved in the conflict during her medical studies, providing treatment to all who cannot get help elsewhere. During this time, she comes under the mentorship of a brilliant and compassionate female physician and with her, in defiance of both the government and the rebels, works to convince other countries to intervene.

For all the tragedy it explores, this novel is a loving and lovely tribute to the people of Sri Lanka, especially the women, in dark times.

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