Sunday, June 20, 2010

Review: Not Quite Paradise

Not Quite Paradise
By Adele Harper
Publication date: January 1, 2010

My review:

Adele Barker and her teenage son Noah spent a year in Sri Lanka where Adele taught literature at the University of Peradeniya in Kandy. In Not Quite Paradise, Adele discusses everything from the food and customs to the people she meets, and the civil war. After the tsunami, Adele returns once again to Sri Lanka and describes the horrible devastation. She also travels north to war-torn Jaffna where she experiences the danger first hand. Not Quite Paradise combines interesting details about daily life, historical fact, and current events in a country ravaged by war for over twenty years.

Sri Lanka is a tiny island nation populated by two distinct ethnic groups: the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority. It was once a colony of Britain but after the British pulled out, tensions escalated culminating in the civil war between the LTTE, a faction of Tamil terrorists, and the Sinhalese government that began in 1983. Adele makes the country’s history come alive and she talks about the conflict from an unbiased point of view. Her own personal experiences as an American adjusting to life in Sri Lanka add touches of humor to the narrative.

Not Quite Paradise was an intensely personal reading experience for me. My parents are originally from Sri Lanka. They immigrated in the mid 70s before I was born. If not for that choice, my sister and I would have grown up there in the middle of the war. The descriptions of war violence were very hard to read about. Although the war ended last year it will take a long time to rebuild and heal. People in Sri Lanka have suffered a lot but even among the sorrow they have hope. There is a lot of beauty and rich culture on the island. Adele is particularly interested in elephants and local birds and I enjoyed reading about the animals that she saw. She also met and made a lot of new friends both Sinhalese and Tamil and she shares their stories with us. I admired Adele’s bravery in coming to a country so different to her and I like how open she was to new cultures and ways of belief. Her conversational writing style is mostly accessible and flows well. If you enjoy reading narrative nonfiction and learning about other cultures, you might enjoy Not Quite Paradise.


  1. Lovely review. I've got this on the wish list.

  2. This sounds fascinating. I don't know nearly enough about Sri Lanka, so I'm definitely putting this on my TBR list. Thanks for the review!


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