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The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida

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Colombo, 1989. Maali Almeida, war photographer, gambler and closet queen, has woken up dead in what seems like a celestial visa office. His dismembered body is sinking in the serene Beira lake and he has no idea who killed him. In a country where scores are settled by death squads, suicide bombers and hired goons, the list of suspects is depressingly long, as the ghouls an Colombo, 1989. Maali Almeida, war photographer, gambler and closet queen, has woken up dead in what seems like a celestial visa office. His dismembered body is sinking in the serene Beira lake and he has no idea who killed him. In a country where scores are settled by death squads, suicide bombers and hired goons, the list of suspects is depressingly long, as the ghouls and ghosts with grudges who cluster round can attest. But even in the afterlife, time is running out for Maali. He has seven moons to try and contact the man and woman he loves most and lead them to a hidden cache of photos that will rock Sri Lanka. Ten years after his prizewinning novel Chinaman established him as one of Sri Lanka's foremost authors, Shehan Karunatilaka is back with a mordantly funny, searing satire. The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida is a state-of-the-nation epic that proves yet again that the best fiction offers the ultimate truth.


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Colombo, 1989. Maali Almeida, war photographer, gambler and closet queen, has woken up dead in what seems like a celestial visa office. His dismembered body is sinking in the serene Beira lake and he has no idea who killed him. In a country where scores are settled by death squads, suicide bombers and hired goons, the list of suspects is depressingly long, as the ghouls an Colombo, 1989. Maali Almeida, war photographer, gambler and closet queen, has woken up dead in what seems like a celestial visa office. His dismembered body is sinking in the serene Beira lake and he has no idea who killed him. In a country where scores are settled by death squads, suicide bombers and hired goons, the list of suspects is depressingly long, as the ghouls and ghosts with grudges who cluster round can attest. But even in the afterlife, time is running out for Maali. He has seven moons to try and contact the man and woman he loves most and lead them to a hidden cache of photos that will rock Sri Lanka. Ten years after his prizewinning novel Chinaman established him as one of Sri Lanka's foremost authors, Shehan Karunatilaka is back with a mordantly funny, searing satire. The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida is a state-of-the-nation epic that proves yet again that the best fiction offers the ultimate truth.

30 review for The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida

  1. 4 out of 5

    Sujoya

    Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2022 “All stories are recycled and all stories are unfair. Many get luck, and many get misery. Many are born to homes with books, many grow up in the swamps of war. In the end, all becomes dust. All stories conclude with a fade to black.” The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka begins with our protagonist - professional war photographer, closeted gay and compulsive gambler- Malinda Albert Kabalana a.k.a. Maali Almeida, waking up, dazed and confus Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2022 “All stories are recycled and all stories are unfair. Many get luck, and many get misery. Many are born to homes with books, many grow up in the swamps of war. In the end, all becomes dust. All stories conclude with a fade to black.” The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka begins with our protagonist - professional war photographer, closeted gay and compulsive gambler- Malinda Albert Kabalana a.k.a. Maali Almeida, waking up, dazed and confused, initially assuming his condition to be the after effect of the “silly pills” his close friend Jaki shares with him. However, he soon realizes that he is now deceased (with no recollection of how he died) and is now in the afterlife - a crowded, chaotic place that he compares to a bureaucracy with its long queues and precise list of procedural formalities. He has “seven moons” (translates to seven nights), in the “In Between”, where he can roam free, recall his past life, complete the required formalities and proceed toward “The Light”. Over the next seven moons, Maali desperately attempts to communicate with his friends, family or anyone who can hear him. He requires assistance to complete an unfinished task – among his earthly possessions is a box that contains photographs taken during his assignments- photographs of the death and devastation he has witnessed first-hand in 1980s Sri Lanka, victims including activists (who have been “disappeared”) journalists who are assumed missing and incriminating pictures of powerful people. In his own words, ” ‘These are not holiday snaps. These are photos that will bring down governments. Photos that could stop wars.’” “Down There", his family and friends, frantically search for Maali, initially unaware that he has been killed. They approach the police who, among themselves, are initially confused about whether this disappearance warrants an investigation or a cover-up. Unbeknownst to them, many will try anything to get their hands on the photographs and Maali’s death is just a starting point for more chaos. In the “In Between”, as Maali tries to figure out a way to get the photographs to the right people and piece together the events that led to his death, he meets an interesting mix of ghosts, ghouls, pretas and demons . He finds himself in a tug-of-war between the ghost of an academic murdered by Tamil extremists who guides Maali to complete all necessary formalities to proceed onwards and leave his past life behind and a slain member of the JVP (the communist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna),who has joined forces with a vengeful demon, and who wants him to join forces to exact revenge on those responsible for the death and devastation of many innocents victims and offers to help him find his killers. He meets others who have remained in the "In Between"- ghosts of victims of violence, others who have died by suicide as well as the ghost of a leopard. In his attempt to establish contact with the living, Maali also encounters "The Crow Man" - a holy man who serves as a medium between both worlds – catering to the needs of both, his help offered at a price. “Evil is not what we should fear. Creatures with power acting in their own interest: that is what should make us shudder.” “Down There” we get to meet people from Maali’s life – friends, secret lovers, family members, powerful men who have employed his services in the past, political leaders and their hired goons and those Maali met on assignments covering the some of the darkest episodes in 1980s Sri Lanka (the 1983 Tamil genocide among them). Narrated in the second person, this heady cocktail of magical realism, historical fiction, political satire and dark humor takes us through one of the darkest chapters in Sri Lanka’s history. A cast of interesting characters – both living and the deceased (“ghost, ghoul, preta, devil, yaka, demon”), the dream-like quality of writing and the vivid descriptions of the political unrest, violence, and corruption in the civil war-torn country make for a compelling read. The narrative jumps back and forth between the present day in both the living world and the "In Between" with flashbacks from Maali's professional and personal lives filling us in on the events leading up to Maali's death. “It is not Good vs Evil out here. It is varying degrees of bad, squabbling with conglomerates of the wicked.” The author is bold and unflinching in his description of the different warring factions within the country -Tamil Tigers, LTTE, the JVP as well as the Sri Lankan government, military and the police. He also does not hesitate to turn a critical eye to the role played by foreign countries and international organizations who offered intervention and aid during those years. I can’t say that this is an easy read, but yes, the satirical approach and the sardonic humor keep it from becoming too overwhelming. The author also gives us a brief look into the history of the country - facts about the history of colonialism in Sri Lanka and the aftermath, the turbulent political landscape, the myths, religious beliefs and customs of the region and also references the Mahavamsa - the epic poem, written originally in Pali, that chronicles the ancient history and origin of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). “ ‘History is people with ships and weapons wiping out those who forgot to invent them. Every civilisation begins with a genocide. It is the rule of the universe. The immutable law of the jungle, even this one made of concrete. You can see it in the movement of the stars, and in the dance of every atom. The rich will enslave the penniless. The strong will crush the weak.’” Although the narrative did seem to slow down in parts with some minor repetitiveness, overall "The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida" is an exceptionally well-written, immersive and powerful story, truly deserving of its place on the Booker Prize shortlist. This is my first time reading Shehan Karunatilaka and I look forward to reading more of his work.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer

    Now re-read after its shortlisting for the 2022 Booker Prize. 4th in my longlist rankings (so firmly in my own shortlist) - my Bookstagram rating, ranking, summary review and Book themed Golden Retriever photo is here: https://www.instagram.com/p/ChNgZa_M4... You were born before Elvis had his first hit. And died before Freddie had his last. In the interim, you have shot thousands. You have photos of the government Minister who looked on while the savages of '83 torched Tamil homes and slaught Now re-read after its shortlisting for the 2022 Booker Prize. 4th in my longlist rankings (so firmly in my own shortlist) - my Bookstagram rating, ranking, summary review and Book themed Golden Retriever photo is here: https://www.instagram.com/p/ChNgZa_M4... You were born before Elvis had his first hit. And died before Freddie had his last. In the interim, you have shot thousands. You have photos of the government Minister who looked on while the savages of '83 torched Tamil homes and slaughtered the occupants. You have portraits of disappeared journalists and vanished activists, bound and gagged and dead in custody. You have grainy yet identifiable snaps of an army major, a Tiger colonel, and a British arms dealer at the same table, sharing a jug of king coconut …………… If you could, you would make a thousand copies of each photo and paste them all over Colombo. Perhaps you still can. I read this book due to its longlisting for the 2022 Booker Prize – and it has a very strong thematic overlap with “The Trees” (in its treatment of retributive justice carried out by the victims of hate crimes and genocide) and “Glory” with its close examination of a turbulent political scene. I would also describe it as “Lincoln In The Bardo” (with its treatment of a limbo style afterlife) meets “Passage North” (due to its treatment of the Sri Lankan civil war and due to the influence on both books and their authors of Channel 4’s Documentary “The Killing Fields”) with a dose of Arthur C Clarke (Sri Lanka’s greatest writer per the author of this novel and who once said “Behind every man now alive stand thirty ghosts, for that is the ratio by which the dead outnumber the living” for this is a novel about those ghosts). This book was the final one of the longlist of 13 that I read (having read 9 pre-publication of the longlist in late July) and I finished it on 31 July. Hence I completed something I have always aimed for but never managed - reading the full Booker longlist by the end of July, something I achieved with more than just a glance through the covers but a detailed read and set of reviews, and an achievement which my twin brother (a left-armer with an unorthodox taste in books) once called the literary equivalent of 1000 runs by the end of May. The cricket analogies in that previous sentence are deliberate as the author is best known for hugely successful best seller “The Chinaman” (2010) which used the lens of cricket – an unorthodox left-arm spinner and a drunk sports journalist - to examine Sri Lanka. That book was picked recently by the BBC as part of the Big Jubilee reads – the selection of 10 books from each decade of the Queen’s reign. This book (or books) the author’s second novel – was 10 years in its conception, partly due to the success of “The Chinaman”, partly due to life events and partly as it took so long to coalesce into a coherent novel. It was originally published in India in February 2020 by Penguin India as “Chats with the Dead” (note a publication 6 months earlier would have made it possibly Booker ineligible were it counted as the same book – and the two books have been merged on Goodreads). In the UK then book was then picked up by Sort of Books – a small independent publisher founded by the co-founders of the Rough Guide Travel Series (husband and wife team – Mark Ellingham and Natania Jansz) and whose first ever book the living-abroad memoir “Driving Over Lemons” was a huge bestseller and almost genre-defining book. The author has said …… The initial manuscript got a great response from Indian publishers, but seemed to baffle the international ones. Many found the quagmire of Sri Lankan politics in 1989 too hard to follow, and the local mythology perplexing. What began as simple tweaks and edits for clarity, turned into more extensive revisions and rewrites. Penguin India were happy with the book and keen to launch it at the Jaipur Festival, and did so. But Natania and I ended up editing the novel all through the pandemic as our publishing dates kept getting pushed back. It’s the same story in spirit (ha!), with roughly the same characters, but with a few subplots revised. The new version is perhaps tighter, pacier, more textured and nuanced, and hopefully more accessible to a wider audience Now I would say that the book still has a heavy dose of Sri Lankan politics and (particularly Hindu) mythology and at times can feel a little sprawling – but I never found it less than accessible and it has the pacing of a thriller so I think the edits worked. The novel is set in Colombo in 1990 and features as its central character someone with birth name Malinda Albert Kabalana (born 1955) but who goes by the titular Maali Almeida, describes himself as “Photographer, Gambler. Slut”, who is also described by the author as a “hedonist, nihilist, atheist, closet gay” war photographer and who is partly inspired by a real life murdered Sri Lankan journalist (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard... whose quote “Father forgive them for I will never” gives the book its first epigraph and also sets the scene for a novel which like “The Trees” looks at the quandy between vengeance (with its risk of self-perpetuation) and forgiveness (with its risk of an absence of justice). Most crucially at the novel’s opening Maali finds out he is dead – and not just dead, but rather disconcertingly for a life long atheist, in some form of afterlife – albeit not a particularly attractive one. The novel opens “You wake up with the answer to the question that everyone has. The answer is Yes, and the answer is Just Like Here But Worse”. For this is a novel written in the second person. The author has said [Originally] I wrote it in the first person, but I just found it hard to separate his voice from mine and so on, and then I just looked at it technically. When the body dies, what survives death? What is the soul? Is it breath? And I just came to the conclusion that what survives is the voice in your head. And mine is in the second person, it’s always ‘you, you, you’. So when I took that on the book started moving forward, so it worked from a philosophical point of view but also stylistically. And he questions it, ‘does the voice belong to me, or are there ghosts whispering in my ear?’ The afterlife in which Maali finds himself is partly a mash up of Buddhism (with the idea of an in-between Bardo), Catholicism (with a kind of purgatory with some form of prayers for the dead giving currency in the afterlife), Hinduism (with the in-between realm roved by malevolent spirits and in particular the destructive Mahakali who here consumes the souls of those dead not prepared to move on to the next stage of The Light) – but more than anything a chaotic bureaucracy staffed by white coated volunteers from among the dead and with any supreme being seemingly on an indefinite leave. The first bureaucrat Maali meets – he suddenly recognises as Dr Ranee Sridharan – a Tamil university lecturer and campaigner, “slain by Tamil extremists for the crime of being a Tamil moderate”. She explains he has seven moons (seven days) in which to go through a number of stages - in particular an examination of his ear lobes to reveal the complexities of his life and the hindrances which might prevent him entering “The Light”. But he is also approached by the black garbage bag wrapped ghost of Sena Pirantha – a JVP (a militant Communist body fighting a fierce war against the government) organiser. Sena claims that both he and Maali were victims of a hit squad including garbage men (a clean-up crew of body disposers with a sleeper Tamil agent driver), corrupt policemen, an army major, the chief torturer of the STF (Special Task Force who carry out abductions on suspected JVP or LTTE/Tamil Tiger members) and ultimately a government minister. Sena wants Maali to reject the promise of the light and instead join him in seeking vengeance on their murderers. The book is effectively structured as a thriller/murder mystery with Maali trying to reconstruct the events that led to his violent death (which appears to have been caused when he was thrown of a tall building housing a casino that he frequently visited) and work out who killed him. The range of potential killers is large as Maali lead a complex professional life – working as a war photographer (and part fixer) for a variety of different and often opposed groups including the army, some international journalists and an NGO. This murky role is made even more complicated by his suspicion that some of the journalists might be fronts for arms dealers, that the NGO may have links to the army and/or the LTTE and that the army and Tamil’s dealings are complicated both by the increasingly unwelcome presence to both of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) and the army’s willingness to deal with Tamil factions that might allow them to capture the LTTE Supreme Leader. Malli’s photos, a cache of which he keeps hidden from his clients, potentially expose these double dealings as well as the complicity of government ministers in past atrocities. As an aside the book includes a helpful guide that Maali wrote to a fellow journalist explaining these groups and more and which ends “Don’t try and look for the good guys, ‘cause there ain’t none”. And Maali’s personal life is as duplicitous and complex as his professional one. He shares a house with Jaki and her cousin Dilan (DD). Dilan is the son of the only Tamil minister in the government. Jaki is ostensibly Maali’s girlfriend, but they are not sexually or romantically involved (despite her seeming wishes) and instead Maali has a hidden sexual relationship with DD (hidden from Jaki to avoid unsetting her and from DD’s father as homosexuality is still largely taboo) while also carrying out a string of casual sexual encounters with men (which are in turn hidden from DD). Now Maali needs Jaki and DD to find his hidden cache of photos, ones he has always intended to publish in exile but not wants to publish in exile from life – but that risks exposing them to severe danger and him to discovery of the duplicity in his personal life. The author comes up with an imaginative way of allowing Maali to be both omnipresent but also close to the opposite of omnipotent as he navigates a Colombo which is both the living version and the one occupied by ghosts, which given the violence which has racked Sri Lanka is even more relatively populous than Arthur C Clarke’s quote would employ and of ghosts tormented by the natures of their deaths and lives. Ghosts in this afterlife can travel wherever their dead body has been (allowing him to trace the grisly disposal of his body) and wherever their name is posthumously mentioned (allowing him and us to travel instantaneously around the various conflicted protagonists involved, implicated on interested in his disappearance at the precise moments they are discussing him). However the ability of the dead to influence the living is restricted either to (the official approach urged by Dr Ranee) inserting themselves in dreams (this leads to a lovely King and Queen hint to the location of some critical negatives) or by more nefarious means which require involvement with the vengeful spirits which patrol the afterlife (as urged by Sena) – and Maali finds himself (perhaps not surprisingly given his professional and personal life) rather unsuccessfully playing both sides as he decides between moving on and vengeance in a plot which is never less than exuberant and fast moving. Overall, this is a very striking book – one with a black humour which allows an unflinching look at the horrors of Civil War and one which fits really well on a very strong Booker longlist. With thanks to the author’s publicity agent for an ARC. All stories are recycled and all stories are unfair. Many get luck, and many get misery. Many are born to homes with books, many grow up in the swamps of war. In the end, all becomes dust. All stories conclude with a fade to black.

  3. 4 out of 5

    David

    Shehan Karunatilaka writes with a storyteller's flair, a talent for telling an engaging tale that is matched by the ambition of his latest novel. Originally published in 2020 as Chats with the Dead, the story is set in Colombo and follows Maali Almeida, a recently deceased war photographer who navigates the afterlife while reckoning with the ghosts that haunt his country. For a place like Sri Lanka, the past is never really dead. The U.N. has estimated 80,000 to 100,000 deaths tied to the Sri La Shehan Karunatilaka writes with a storyteller's flair, a talent for telling an engaging tale that is matched by the ambition of his latest novel. Originally published in 2020 as Chats with the Dead, the story is set in Colombo and follows Maali Almeida, a recently deceased war photographer who navigates the afterlife while reckoning with the ghosts that haunt his country. For a place like Sri Lanka, the past is never really dead. The U.N. has estimated 80,000 to 100,000 deaths tied to the Sri Lankan civil war, a shockingly high number of those being civilians. But this is no dour trip to Hades. The afterlife is at times a rather comic affair, drawing on Buddhist, Hindu, and other beliefs - with a splash of bureaucratic red tape that keeps the hereafter grounded in the here and now. Karunatilaka makes the wise choice to tell the story in the second person, Maali seemingly telling the tale to to himself with a mix of sardonic wit and streetwise sensibility. Despite the heaviness of the subject matter, Karunatilaka's touch is light. After an exposition heavy first chapter and a bit of repetition in the middle, this turns into a cracking page turner, picking up steam as it goes, a whodunit wrapped in a morality play wrapped in a fantastically told story with compelling characters.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Eric Anderson

    How could I not fall for a novel whose plot superficially resembles the movie 'Ghost'? That's not to say this book was inspired by that film as its use of ghosts caught “In-Between” is rooted in Sri Lankan folklore, but it's the reference which immediately came to my mind when reading this tremendous story. There may not be any Oda Mae Brown, but there is a more sinister self-interested sort of medium called The Crow Man. Thankfully the protagonist is also much more interesting than the blandly How could I not fall for a novel whose plot superficially resembles the movie 'Ghost'? That's not to say this book was inspired by that film as its use of ghosts caught “In-Between” is rooted in Sri Lankan folklore, but it's the reference which immediately came to my mind when reading this tremendous story. There may not be any Oda Mae Brown, but there is a more sinister self-interested sort of medium called The Crow Man. Thankfully the protagonist is also much more interesting than the blandly good, pretty boy Sam Wheat. Maali Almeida documents atrocities of war and wants tyrants to be held accountable but he is not virtuous. From page one it states that if he had a business card it'd say: “Maali Almeida: Photographer. Gambler. Slut.” He accepts work from shady organizations, loses a lot of his money at a casino and sleeps around with many men behind his (secret) partner DD's back. What's more he's disillusioned with the government and doesn't attach himself to any particular political organization in Sri Lanka which is heavily embroiled in a deadly civil war during the late 80s when this novel is set. Because of all his complexity and so-called “flaws”, I fell in love with this character. At the start of the book Maali wakes to find himself in the liminal space between life and the great beyond. Just like we can't recall birth, he can't recall his death. He's instructed by an official that he has seven moons to decide whether he wants to enter the light or remain as a spectre amongst the living. A countdown begins during which he wants to discover his killer, reconnect with those he loves and reveal to the public shocking evidence of a national scandal. It's satisfying reading a novel built around a certain structure that moves towards a definite ending and the suspenseful way in which this story unravels makes it thrilling to reach the conclusion. We gradually discover details of his life through people he “haunts”, but he also encounters many of the dead victims he got paid for photographing. In addition to those who were actively killed there are the ghosts of those who found life in Sri Lanka untenable and committed suicide. These spirits are raging. There is a tension between those who want to get their revenge and the desire to leave all the pain of life behind. Read my full review of The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka at LonesomeReader Or watch my video discussing this novel here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eCRGvX7X8YY

  5. 5 out of 5

    Maxwell

    This had a really cool concept but the execution didn’t work for me. There was a lot going on and so many characters and elements that never really came together cohesively. It felt a bit dragged out too. If it had been a shorter, more character driven story rather than something with so much plot, I might’ve enjoyed it more. Not bad but not particularly memorable either.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Hugh

    Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2022 It is almost two weeks since I finished reading this - I have been struggling to find time to write reviews, so I will keep this short. This was a curate's egg for me - there were parts I liked a lot and others I really didn't get on with, and one of those is fairly central to the whole plot - the main protagonist is dead but in a form of administrative limbo that enables him to visit the places he knew when alive. The death occurred in 1990, and the eponymous Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2022 It is almost two weeks since I finished reading this - I have been struggling to find time to write reviews, so I will keep this short. This was a curate's egg for me - there were parts I liked a lot and others I really didn't get on with, and one of those is fairly central to the whole plot - the main protagonist is dead but in a form of administrative limbo that enables him to visit the places he knew when alive. The death occurred in 1990, and the eponymous protagonist was a gay photographer who left a collection of pictures that could potentially be devastating in the wrong hands. There is some incisive stuff about life in Sri Lanka during this period (the early stages of the lengthy civil war) and the nature of the war and the regime, but for me the ghost story elements intervened too often to make this a rewarding reading experience.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Meike

    Longlisted for the Booker Prize 2022 Final entry, then I've finished the whole list - let's do it! Longlisted for the Booker Prize 2022 Final entry, then I've finished the whole list - let's do it!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Neil

    This is another book that I probably would not have read if not for its inclusion on the Booker Prize long list for 2022. The book is set in Colombo in 1990 and the main character is the eponymous Maali Almeida whose self-description in the narrative is “photographer, gambler, slut”. As I now have a very small photography business of my own, the first part of this description caught my eye. But it quickly becomes apparent that Almeida and I photograph very different things. My photography is all This is another book that I probably would not have read if not for its inclusion on the Booker Prize long list for 2022. The book is set in Colombo in 1990 and the main character is the eponymous Maali Almeida whose self-description in the narrative is “photographer, gambler, slut”. As I now have a very small photography business of my own, the first part of this description caught my eye. But it quickly becomes apparent that Almeida and I photograph very different things. My photography is all about the calming influences of nature. Almeida’s photography is about capturing the horrors of war. As the book opens, Almeida discovers that he is dead and that he is now in a kind of “waiting room”, an afterlife where he is in an intermediate state prior to, possibly, entering The Light. He quickly learns that he has seven moons (i.e. seven days) to sort several things out that might otherwise hinder his progress. This sets the book up and we read what is presented to us as, effectively, a murder mystery with a dead man attempting to work out how he was killed and who did it. It has to be said that this isn’t the easiest book to read. It’s a heady mixture of Sri Lankan politics (about which I know very little) and mythology (largely Hindu, about which I know even less). I struggled for the first couple of moons (there’s a chapter for each of the seven moons) but then started to get into the swing of things and it felt a bit easier to read from then onwards. It has big overlaps with another book on the long list (The Trees): both use dark humour to look at an even darker subject. Being a photographer myself, I ended the book mystified as to what a Nikon ST3 is. And mystified as to why people would assume a roll of film was 32 exposures and therefore not miss the final 4 frames if the photographer chose to keep those negatives. But then the book is full of unexplained weird things happening, so I will probably never know. It might not be an easy book to read, but it is a memorable one.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Joy D

    Set in Colombo, Sri Lanka in 1989, the ghost of war photographer Maali Almeida finds himself in a liminal place called the In Between. He has seven days (“moons”) to figure out who killed him and why, He must also decide whether to proceed into The Light or remain forever in the In Between. A ghost called Sena is trying to influence him to join his group in the In Between so they can take revenge on their killers. A demon called the Mahakali is out to devour as many souls as possible. All this i Set in Colombo, Sri Lanka in 1989, the ghost of war photographer Maali Almeida finds himself in a liminal place called the In Between. He has seven days (“moons”) to figure out who killed him and why, He must also decide whether to proceed into The Light or remain forever in the In Between. A ghost called Sena is trying to influence him to join his group in the In Between so they can take revenge on their killers. A demon called the Mahakali is out to devour as many souls as possible. All this is told in an entertaining manner, using grim humor to balance the darker content. It works on so many levels. On the surface, it is an entertaining mystery and can easily be read as a quasi-detective novel. It also works as an indictment of the abuse of power by dictators and their minions, historical commentary on the multiple factions involved in the Sri Lankan civil war, and reflections on what it means to be human. It is one of the few novels that effectively uses the second person point of view. I was familiar with this period in Sri Lankan history from my prior reading; however, I do not think this familiarity is necessary to enjoy it. Karunatilaka does an excellent job of providing the background the reader needs. It is a wild ride, and I loved every minute. This book gets one of my rare 5 stars and I am adding it to my list of favorites.

  10. 5 out of 5

    David

    For all its inventiveness, exuberance, and reach, this was not a novel that worked terribly well for me. Karunatilaka peppers his story with many astute political observations and important cultural insights - and I did learn several new and important things about Sri Lanka’s modern history - yet the broader narrative often lacked clarity. The multiple shifts between past and present, spirit and corporeal existence, and myriad settings (casino, war zone, student apartment, interrogation cell, ph For all its inventiveness, exuberance, and reach, this was not a novel that worked terribly well for me. Karunatilaka peppers his story with many astute political observations and important cultural insights - and I did learn several new and important things about Sri Lanka’s modern history - yet the broader narrative often lacked clarity. The multiple shifts between past and present, spirit and corporeal existence, and myriad settings (casino, war zone, student apartment, interrogation cell, photo shop, etc.) sometimes added zest but more often seemed chaotic. As for the writing, this is simply the latest prize list finalist loaded with passages that I know will be problem-free for many but which I found either overly effusive Monsoons and full moons make all creatures stupid, especially silly boys in love. or unnecessarily tortured On the table is Jaki’s maroon handbag, which is open and looks as messy as it usually does, making it impossible to ascertain if it has been rummaged through. Though it clearly has. 3 stars

  11. 5 out of 5

    Doug

    AKA Chats with the Dead, and might as well have been called 'Maali in the Bardo ', this had somewhat the same effect on me as that earlier Booker winner that took place in the afterlife. My tolerance for whimsical ghosts and musings on mortality is quite low, so this was never going to sit well with me. But to compound that problem, one really needs to know (and care) about the history of Sri Lanka's civil war(s) to actually understand what is happening - and I was never invested enough in the s AKA Chats with the Dead, and might as well have been called 'Maali in the Bardo ', this had somewhat the same effect on me as that earlier Booker winner that took place in the afterlife. My tolerance for whimsical ghosts and musings on mortality is quite low, so this was never going to sit well with me. But to compound that problem, one really needs to know (and care) about the history of Sri Lanka's civil war(s) to actually understand what is happening - and I was never invested enough in the storyline or characters to do even rudimentary Googling. And it's always annoying when every 17th word is not in the Kindle dictionary, so one has to either belabor oneself with more Googling - or just kinda/sorta guess what the words mean and move on (why, oh why, can't foreign authors provide glossaries and/or footnotes?!!). Add to that the superfluity of characters, all with multisyllabic unpronounceable names and almost 400 pages which could have easily been chopped in half - and well, this sinks to the bottom tier in my Booker ratings. Amid the dross and drudgery though, there were some memorable scenes and a few chuckles, and I managed to get through it in 3 days, so a grudging 3 stars.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Claire

    I loved this conversations with the dead-style exploration of the complex history of Sri Lanka’s Civil War. Magical realism is often hit or miss for me, but in this instance it’s a real winner. This is a zesty, vibrant, grim, critical exploration of the meaningless nature of conflict. It’s not perfectly paced, but it’s original, challenging, and engaging reading in equal measure. I wouldn’t be sad if this won the Booker.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Paul Fulcher

    I'm not a massive fan of books over 200 pages and this was a case in point - Three Moons would have been plenty. Impressively written and an interesting choice by the Booker judges but it wasn't for me. For a more positive and informative take read my twin's review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... I'm not a massive fan of books over 200 pages and this was a case in point - Three Moons would have been plenty. Impressively written and an interesting choice by the Booker judges but it wasn't for me. For a more positive and informative take read my twin's review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

  14. 4 out of 5

    Darryl Suite

    Muah. A grittier mashup of Lincoln in the Bardo and A Christmas Carol.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Anita Pomerantz

    If I were going strictly on enjoyment of this book, my rating would be a one, but I will give the author kudos for excellent use of the second person - - a voice I happen to enjoy. But other than that, I was not a fan. I don't know much about Sri Lanka, but my impressions from this book are entirely negative - corrupt, homophobic, violent, backward, awful. Then, overlay this backdrop with a quasi mystery aka "who killed Maali Almeida?" and a B-movie plot about who possesses Maali's photograph nega If I were going strictly on enjoyment of this book, my rating would be a one, but I will give the author kudos for excellent use of the second person - - a voice I happen to enjoy. But other than that, I was not a fan. I don't know much about Sri Lanka, but my impressions from this book are entirely negative - corrupt, homophobic, violent, backward, awful. Then, overlay this backdrop with a quasi mystery aka "who killed Maali Almeida?" and a B-movie plot about who possesses Maali's photograph negatives (does anyone under the age of 40 even know what negatives are anymore?). If that isn't bad enough, Maali is in some kind of purgatory, where the main facets seem to be that ghostly beings ride on the wind and only a VERY select number of beings know how to communicate with the living. It's a bit beyond me why Maali is so invested in the lives of his two friends when he is now aware there's a whole big afterlife in the event they do die. In fact, everyone's motives in this entire book seem somewhat unbelievable. This book is peppered with minor characters to the point where it's hard for the reader to keep them straight or care about any of them. There's also a repetitiveness about the text that didn't make the plot any easier or more fun to follow. I could have done with like 5 less moons to tell this story and 100 fewer pages. To be fair, I really dislike magical realism, and I never should have read this book. Bet you it wins the Booker Prize. It's almost inevitable.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida has an interesting premise: A photographer dies and has seven moons to discover how he died and to guide his friends on Earth to uncover a stack of photos which will expose the brutalities of his country. The setting: Sri Lanka during the civil war. a bloody and terrifying moment in history. With a plot like this Shehan Karunatilaka, shows the reader all the problems with Sri Lanka: Police corruption, religious intolerance, gang violence, the savagery of hired kil The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida has an interesting premise: A photographer dies and has seven moons to discover how he died and to guide his friends on Earth to uncover a stack of photos which will expose the brutalities of his country. The setting: Sri Lanka during the civil war. a bloody and terrifying moment in history. With a plot like this Shehan Karunatilaka, shows the reader all the problems with Sri Lanka: Police corruption, religious intolerance, gang violence, the savagery of hired killers and all the state led betrayal. There is a lot of ugliness in this novel. Yet Seven Moons… is a creative one as well. The whole book is structured like a puzzle, so it may be confusing at first but then pieces fall together and the novel becomes a cohesive whole. In a way I was reminded of Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, a novel with a non linear structure which criticised extreme actions of political groups. Because of this factor, Seven Moons appeal emerges with repeated readings. This year’s Booker Longlist contains several political novels but The Seven Moons of Malia Almeida is definitely the most creative one I’ve read so far.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Oakes

    oh, oh, and OH! Loved this one. more soon.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lou

    Writing a book with a dead narrator can be risky but, Karunatilka pulls this off beautifully. Maali is a photographer in 1980s Sri Lanka with the hopes that he can stop the war with his photos instead he is killed and is told “every soul is allowed seven moons to wander the In Between.” And here begins his journey of seven moons in the afterlife. Wonderfully dark humour, gory satire with an afterlife not unlike those found in Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo. This is high on my Booker long list ran Writing a book with a dead narrator can be risky but, Karunatilka pulls this off beautifully. Maali is a photographer in 1980s Sri Lanka with the hopes that he can stop the war with his photos instead he is killed and is told “every soul is allowed seven moons to wander the In Between.” And here begins his journey of seven moons in the afterlife. Wonderfully dark humour, gory satire with an afterlife not unlike those found in Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo. This is high on my Booker long list rankings so probably won’t make the short list. 4.5 ⭐️ marked down as it took a long way into the book to connect.

  19. 4 out of 5

    K.J. Charles

    Set in Sri Lanka in the late 80s: corruption, appalling brutality and civil war. Maali, a gay war photographer, has been disappeared and murdered and his body dumped. The book is about his experience of the afterlife, him working out who killed him, and attempting to contact his boyfriend and best friend to keep them safe and revenge himself on his killers. It's a great premise for a book about a serious, dreadful time about which I know shamefully little. This was a bit of an issue as there's a Set in Sri Lanka in the late 80s: corruption, appalling brutality and civil war. Maali, a gay war photographer, has been disappeared and murdered and his body dumped. The book is about his experience of the afterlife, him working out who killed him, and attempting to contact his boyfriend and best friend to keep them safe and revenge himself on his killers. It's a great premise for a book about a serious, dreadful time about which I know shamefully little. This was a bit of an issue as there's a huge amount of domestic factional politics plus foreign interference from the US and India and it was pretty hard to follow, with an awful lot of characters and hidden motives. There's also an afterlife plot which is also complicated and full of intrigue and hidden motives. Which could make for a hugely absorbing read--the writing is vivid and powerful and the story bitterly important--but unfortunately it is told in second person present tense ("You watch them cut off your head and dispose of your body") including in the many flashbacks. I am sure there's a good literary reason behind this decision but it absolutely didn't work for me. Present tense is usually fairly pointless IMO (the only book I can think of that actively benefits from its use is Infomocracy by Malka Older) and becomes thoroughly annoying when flashbacks get involved. And the second person is confusing in a complicated book, and I found it very distancing. That may well have been the intention, reflecting Maali's war photographer 'onlooker' attitude and his enforced emotional detachment as a gay man in a homophobic society, but the cumulative effect made it a tough read for me. I keep saying "for me" because I can see the skill here and I'm very sure others will find it engaging and moving and powerful, but I am not the right reader for this. DNF at 56%.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Pool

    This is not an easy read. There is a cast of hundreds, and the shift between our recognisable life, and an afterworld (or In-Between, or The Light) keeps the reader off balance. Most of all the complexity of Sri Lankan politics and the multiplicity of cause driven groups means that this reader was often having to flip back and recall who was who. That said it was a stimulating read, and the underlying humour with which Karunatilaka writes permeates every page. That’s just as well when the recent This is not an easy read. There is a cast of hundreds, and the shift between our recognisable life, and an afterworld (or In-Between, or The Light) keeps the reader off balance. Most of all the complexity of Sri Lankan politics and the multiplicity of cause driven groups means that this reader was often having to flip back and recall who was who. That said it was a stimulating read, and the underlying humour with which Karunatilaka writes permeates every page. That’s just as well when the recent history of Sri Lanka is one of killing, torture, abduction and persecution. The fast moving action (and this is action packed) crosses Colombo and is set up as a mixture of ghost story, and, particularly, a thriller, with a whodunit element. That’s pretty unusual, and very ambitious! Storyline The book divided into three (overlapping) parts • The ravages of civil war, and of corrupt governments, genocide and ethnic intolerance. It is set in 1989 when the civil strife was at its height. The reader has to contend with competing political factions operating in Sri Lanka (this is set in Colombo, the capital), and especially the Tamils and the Sinhalese. It’s not a straight binary, and the point that Karunatilaka makes very forcibly is that there are many motives for killings and assassinations and abductions. Nobody, Sri Lankan national or international reader of novels, is going to provide you with a definitive chronology and/or history of the many interests reflected in scores of acronyms (main two being LTTE Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and JVP (Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna 'People's Liberation Front'). • Colombo. Colombo is a city known to locals district by district (eg Colombo 4). The main areas where the action is set are at the Hotel Leo Casino, Galle Face Court (an accommodation block), Beira Lake, Kanatte graveyard, The Lionel Wendt Art Centre (Arthur C. Clarke is an alumnus). • Fantasy. The original incarnation (an appropriate word in this context) for the book was Chats With the Dead , and the free reign this imagining affords Karunatilaka is a good contrast with worldly bombings. It’s a world in which the Mahakali (“swallower of souls”) is a perennially threatening menace. Sinhala yaka dance around the (still) mortals and the names indicate their unrest: The Cannibal Uncle; The Scarred Man; The Feral Child are introduced alongside more generic yaka including The Bahirava Yaka, The Kota Yaka, The Anag Yaka. The Crow Man and Sparrowboy; notions of Nekath. ““Crow Man is like the priest in Kung Fu that keeps saying grasshopper” (183) Favourite humour and Characters • The pit boss (ie casino floor) takes cops to the Balcony 5th floor. “they ordered three gins, three vodkas, two tonics and three plates of devilled pork” you memorised that? .. no this is their bill. “that’s a lot of devilled pork” (71) • Canada Norway Third World Relief (75) funds for war relief. I think this is a satirical play on two of the least internationally political nations as a satire on the many real life pressure groups. • “resembles his sister as a polar bear resembles a peacock” (76) Who knows to what extent Karunatilaka exercised his free imagination with the cast, or whether they are based on larger than life people he knows. Many of the military and political figures appear under their real names (Major Raja Udugampola being one example). • Maali himself (based on Richard de Zoysa to whom the first Chapter is dedicated). “Photographer. Gambler. Slut. aka Malinda Albert Kabalana “ He is wise cracking, duplicitous and a street wise product of a cracked nation. • Jonny Gilhooley (British government/BBC official) and Emmanuel Kugarajar (“Jack of Hearts”). Both characters are making a return from their appearance in from Karunatilaka previous (cricket) book, Chinaman . • Dr Ranee Sridharan, manager of the Sri Lankan queues. (they never go away). • Thugs Kottu and Balal, and their cat accomplices. Favourite Scenes • Throughout the book I enjoyed the covert discussions taking place between the various political parties and action groups. None of them are trustworthy or consistent and I was immediately reminded of Graham Greene’s writing. Colonel Gopallaswarmy leads a quasi mythical jungle movement, the Mahatiya, that is in cahoots with the Indian military; sponsored allegedly via the monstrous and corrupt westerner Gilhooley. • The CNTR sets up interviews, all of which are filmed by a Heath Robinson contraption comprising a hidden camera in some plastic anthuriums. The full cast of Srii lankan politics are duly summoned. PM Rajapaksa, MP; JJ Dikahith. Indian High Commissioner; Jonny Gilhooley; ‘The Karachi Kid’; Israelis, Yael Menachem and Golan Yoram for weapons procurement. By now I thought I was entering Thomas Pynchon territory which is praise indeed. Questions • Karunatilaka has eight sections in the book and chooses an intriguing and diverse selection of epigraphs to kick start each chapter. What, though, is the significance of Tess Clare? In fact the whole of the last section is open to personal interpretation (a good thing) • Ears. I never did spot the significance of the interest in people’s ears in the afterworld. • Who or what does the dead leopard and the dead atheist signify? I came to this book as a consequence of its Booker prize 2022 longlisting. The Booker throws up good surprises and disappointments in equal measure. I found immediate comparisons with other Booker luminaries including Elif Shafak’s 10 Minutes 38 Seconds In this Strange World ; Marlon James’s Dark Star Trilogy, and George Saunders Lincoln In The Bardo . This one is firmly in the positive Booker camp for me and I hope it gets shortlisted.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Constantine

    Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ Genre: Fantasy + Cultural The Lovely Bones meeting Lincoln in the Bardo. This is the basic concept behind the story of The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida. Set in Colombo in 1989, Maali is killed. He has no idea who killed him and why. He is in the afterlife and he has the period of seven moons to figure things out. The concept of the story is brilliant. I thought this would be a new favorite because many of my friends who read it loved it a lot. Unfortunately, it was not the same case fo Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ Genre: Fantasy + Cultural The Lovely Bones meeting Lincoln in the Bardo. This is the basic concept behind the story of The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida. Set in Colombo in 1989, Maali is killed. He has no idea who killed him and why. He is in the afterlife and he has the period of seven moons to figure things out. The concept of the story is brilliant. I thought this would be a new favorite because many of my friends who read it loved it a lot. Unfortunately, it was not the same case for me. I appreciate the kind of subjects that the author has touched on in this novel but I have problems with the way this novel has been executed. The first thing is the narration. I feel using a second-person narration did more of a disservice to the character and the story. Maybe the author wanted the reader to be Maali and be in his shoes but that did not work for me. I feel for such a story a first-person narration would’ve made me closer to the character. I don’t want to be the character, I want to know him and how he feels. I felt detached from him. The other problem is there are many characters. Maali meets many many ghosts and has conversations with them. While the subjects they discussed held my interest, the characters who were talking did not! Sometimes I felt the book was getting slow and tedious. This could be much shorter and have a better pace. I expected a lot more from the book. Maybe that is why I didn’t enjoy it that much. It is a decent story. If you are OK with the points I have mentioned, then you might like it.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ellie

    This is a magnificent book that fully deserves its Booker prize longlisting. It is set in Sri Lanka in the late 1980s and the plot revolves around the events of the civil war, but you don't need to have any real background knowledge as the book has gone through extensive edits (from its previously published version Chats with the Dead) to make it more accessible to international audiences. The main character, Maali Almeida, is a war photographer and we find out quite quickly that he is dead - or This is a magnificent book that fully deserves its Booker prize longlisting. It is set in Sri Lanka in the late 1980s and the plot revolves around the events of the civil war, but you don't need to have any real background knowledge as the book has gone through extensive edits (from its previously published version Chats with the Dead) to make it more accessible to international audiences. The main character, Maali Almeida, is a war photographer and we find out quite quickly that he is dead - or 'you' are dead, as this novel is written in the second person (initially disconcerting). You and Maali's spirit are in the waiting room of a limbo-like afterlife. Spirits have a choice whether to go directly to The Light, spend seven moons in the In Between or stay there permanently. Maali isn't left to make this choice alone, as he is surrounded by ghosts, some of them trying to persuade him that their way is the high way. Maali is tempted by the ghost of a communist organiser into exiting the waiting room and he explores the In Between, which is essentially being a ghost in the normal world. Ghosts can linger there seemingly as long as they like, and the In Between is populated by a host of ghouls, demons and other spirits from Sri Lankan mythology. The only caveat is that spirits can only travel 'where their body has been'. They are able to wait in a mara tree to hear their name spoken on one of the winds which allows them to travel, and as Maali becomes expert at doing this we learn about his life through a mixture of conversations about him and flashbacks. Maali learns early on that he was killed while at the casino, and that his body was disposed of by 'garbage men' working for a death squad, the members of which are named by the communist organiser. The most senior person in the death squad is quite high up in the Sri Lankan regime, suggesting that Maali has been targeted due to his photography of the atrocities carried out by all sides in the civil war. Maali has some hidden photographs taken on his assignments for various parties in the war (including an NGO, the Sri Lankan army and the Associated Press) which have the potential to implicate, amongst others, high-ranking government ministers. Over the course of the novel, Maali attempts to contact his friends and flatmates, Jaki and DD, to let them know where the photographs and negatives are so that they can be kept from the authorities and eventually exhibited. For ghosts, communicating with the living is very difficult, and in his attempts to do so Maali ends up mixing with unsavoury spirits who hold power in the In Between. While Maali is trying to contact his friends, we learn about his complicated personal life and the secret relationship he has with DD, the son of the only Tamil cabinet minister. Throughout this book, Maali is urged by conflicting forces - on the one hand, to stay in the In Between and get revenge, on the other to avoid trying to change the world Down There and to move on to The Light. As readers, we see through Maali's eyes the extent of Sri Lanka's suffering, much of it directly caused by the government and the army. Through exhibiting his photos, Maali is determined to show the world what he has seen, but risks exposing the secrets of his personal life in the process. Like several of the books longlisted for the Booker prize this year, the ending is unexpected, but unlike others this novel ties up loose ends and answers questions posed at the beginning. Despite a few minor plot inconsistencies, this is an incredibly well-executed book with excellent characterisation and a plot which builds up perfectly to its conclusion.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Khai Jian (KJ)

    "All stories are recycled and all stories are unfair. Many get luck, and many get misery. Many are born to homes with books, many grow up in the swamps of war. In the end, all becomes dust. All stories conclude with a fade to black." In the 1990s, Maali Almeida, the son of a Sinhalese father and a Burgher mother, war photographer, gambler, closet gay, and atheist has woken up dead. He has no idea who murdered him and his dismembered body is sinking in the Beira Lake. In the afterlife, he met Dr. "All stories are recycled and all stories are unfair. Many get luck, and many get misery. Many are born to homes with books, many grow up in the swamps of war. In the end, all becomes dust. All stories conclude with a fade to black." In the 1990s, Maali Almeida, the son of a Sinhalese father and a Burgher mother, war photographer, gambler, closet gay, and atheist has woken up dead. He has no idea who murdered him and his dismembered body is sinking in the Beira Lake. In the afterlife, he met Dr. Ranee Sridharan (a Tamil university lecturer murdered by Tamil extremists) who explained to him that he has seven moons to go through certain procedures before stepping into "the Light". He also met the ghost of Sena Pirantha (a JVP organiser who was murdered by a hit squad) who claimed that he can assist Maali in figuring out his murderer. He recalled that he owns a set of photographs "that will bring down governments. Photos that could stop wars". Photos that most probably got him killed. Now, he has seven moons to get in touch with Jaki (his best friend) and DD (his cousin and lover) in order to locate the negatives of the photos. Written in the second person, The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida is a brilliant blend of thriller, magical realism, absurdism, historical fiction, and political satire, set in the backdrop of the Sri Lankan Civil War. Maali bears witness to the terrors of the civil war, the corrupted government officials behind the scenes, the involvement of all other parties with their own agenda and interests in the war, the brutality, and the violence inflicted on innocent citizens during the war. Major historical events surrounding the civil war, such as the 1990 massacre of Sri Lankan Police officers, and the riots of 1983 (i.e. Black July) were highlighted. A distinctive element of this book would be the dark humor and satirical prose adopted by Karunatilaka. Sharp, witty, and bold comments were made against all the parties (including the UN and USA) involved in the civil war, as well as the corrupted state of Sri Lanka (P.S. pages 22 to 23 brilliantly summarised the Sri Lankan tragedy in a LOL manner!): "I only help those who help me. If you don't want my help, I can leave...You sound like the UN"; "Typical government office. Take a number and sit down until you forget why you came"; "There is the US Fund for Peace? Is their budget the same as the US Fund for War?"; "History is people with ships and weapons wiping out those who forgot to invent them. Every civilisation begins with a genocide. It is the rule of the universe. The immutable law of the jungle, even this one made of concrete. You can see it in every movement of the stars, and in the dance of every atom. The rich will enslave the penniless. The strong will crush the weak". Despite the comical, sarcastic remarks, Karunatilaka's description of the ghosts and victims of the war are unique (with the usage of the notions of Afterlife) and haunting: "You look up at the giant chimney, spewing black smog towards the heaven, where the stars look away and the gods refuse to hear. You remember the many times you saw Colombo's air fill with this smoke. You are not among these piles of flesh; you can feel that in bones you no longer have...The inferno accepts the bodies with a hiss and a belch, while each spirit wails, only to be heard by those who have stopped listening". Karunatilaka managed to blur the lines between fiction and reality, between the dead and the living, only to amplify the darkest period of Sri Lankan history. Comparisons were made with Salman Rushdie and Gabriel Garcia Marquez owing to the magical realism elements. But to me, Karunatilaka is in his own league and managed to fortify his literary career with Maali Almeida. A strong 5/5 star rating and I would be rooting for this to win the 2022 Booker Prize!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Phyllis

    "And, without a doubt, that is the kindest thing you can say about life. It's not nothing." This is a beautiful book, that recounts many ugly things. Malinda Albert Kabalan, a/k/a Maali Almeida, was born in Sri Lanka in 1955 and died there in 1990. This story is about the first seven moons following his death, as in the "In Between" he slowly remembers how he died and all of the events leading up to that moment. Maali was a war photographer and also, as he claims on page 1, a gambler and a slut "And, without a doubt, that is the kindest thing you can say about life. It's not nothing." This is a beautiful book, that recounts many ugly things. Malinda Albert Kabalan, a/k/a Maali Almeida, was born in Sri Lanka in 1955 and died there in 1990. This story is about the first seven moons following his death, as in the "In Between" he slowly remembers how he died and all of the events leading up to that moment. Maali was a war photographer and also, as he claims on page 1, a gambler and a slut -- "a handsome man who enjoyed beautiful boys." He lived his life by calculating the odds. "You believed that no harm would reach you, because you were protected, not by angels, but by the laws of probability which stated that really bad things happened not very often, except when they did." Maali hardly knew his father, who was Sinhalese but left Maali and his mom "Lucky" when Maali was 11 and then expatriated to the U.S. to live in Missouri when Maali was 18. His mom was half Tamil and half Burgher, and they barely talk. On awaking in the afterlife, Maali cares about nothing more than a hidden shoebox of his photographs, documenting Sri Lanka's civil war from 1983 through 1990. Except, as it turns out, his lover Dilan "DD" Dharmendran and his best friend & beard (and DD's cousin) Jaki Vairavanathan. Everyone has a hand in and no one is solving the violence in Sri Lanka, including Great Britain, India, the United States, Canada, Norway, Israel, China, Pakistan, the United Nations. Everyone has a side and a goal and an enemy and a hero and a martyr, including the Sri Lankan army, government, police, and secret police, and the vying parties of the LTTE Tamil Tigers, the JVP Jonathan Vimukthi Peramuna, and the UNP United National Party. So "Whose side are you on, kolla?" It takes a bit to get oriented to the story, since the reader is traveling along with Maali who himself takes a bit to get oriented to the fact of no longer being alive and how things work and what if anything he can do about it. But it is so worth the time spent getting synched with Maali and his story. The Booker got it right in short-listing this novel for the 2022 award.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Bob Hughes

    Although I got a bit lost in the middle of this, the final 50 pages left me breathless with their excellence.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sofia

    Ghostly, intense story bringing to the fore the tragedy that Sri Lanka passed through in the 80's and 90's. Unfortunately I got a bit lost in the words of which there where many. Ghostly, intense story bringing to the fore the tragedy that Sri Lanka passed through in the 80's and 90's. Unfortunately I got a bit lost in the words of which there where many.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Fraser Simons

    Maali of Sri Lanka finds himself in the in-between, having just died. Other spirits surround him. Importantly, there is a choice between trusting the institution in place to port souls back into the Buddhist reincarnation cycle—or to leave that behind, and believe a spirit who claims that people are being churned enough. They tell him he was murdered and if he wishes to know what happened to him, and most importantly, obtain some measure of retribution, then he must learn from those people who s Maali of Sri Lanka finds himself in the in-between, having just died. Other spirits surround him. Importantly, there is a choice between trusting the institution in place to port souls back into the Buddhist reincarnation cycle—or to leave that behind, and believe a spirit who claims that people are being churned enough. They tell him he was murdered and if he wishes to know what happened to him, and most importantly, obtain some measure of retribution, then he must learn from those people who stay in the between place. Where they can whisper thoughts into ears and have the person think it is their own voice. Or turn into another kind of creature altogether, such a demon or ghoul. He has seven moons to decide to go to the light, or else lose his choice completely and dwell between. While this does have some issues with middle book syndrome, and it does like to reiterate things really often, (one time it reiterated something only two pages back) overall I think the story is great and plotting serviceable. The world building, what is there of it, is really interesting, derived from beliefs in the culture. Where it lacks somewhat substantially is in, ironically, because Maali was a photographer, is painting a scene. It is primarily dialogue, with very sparse description that generally is not repeated or altered. For something taking place in ‘89 and in Sri Lanka, and how the protagonist would be processing the world, there’s really a lot left to the reader to project onto the fiction. That’s my number one gripe. Coupled with the slow pacing near the middle, especially when how Maali negotiates this between place as a ghost and what’s possible there, it does lag and could absolutely have been truncated. It is also told in 2nd person which raises some interesting questions immediately in the fiction, but might also put off some people. For me, it worked well and felt organic. No problem. The mystery always kept me coming back, though. How did Maali die? Will he be able to communicate really important details to his lover, DD, and best friend and presentable girlfriend, Jacki. Maali being a queer man in a society completely intolerant of that, and not being a sad, self loathing queer was really great as well. But also dangerous, always adding to a subtext to interactions. Did it play a part in his death? Did his job, photographing atrocities for various factions, finally put him in the crosshairs of someone? Or perhaps his gambling debts? All of the characters were believable, interesting, and flawed. No more than Maali himself, who was very single serving it seems. Not exactly an anti-hero or dark horse. Just very human, in a way that worked and drove home the themes well.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    2022 BOOKER LONGLIST CHALLENGE THE TWELVE MOONS OF MAALI ALMEIDA by Shehan Karunatilaka Getting to the final few books of the longlist, I was quite excited to dig into this one, getting pitched as the Sri Lankan MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN and one of the favourites to win the Booker next month. For the most part, this delivered a fantastical exploration of recent Sri Lankan history. I love novels that expose wider audiences to histories often forgotten and THE TWELVE MOONS OF MAALI ALMEIDA provides a rich 2022 BOOKER LONGLIST CHALLENGE THE TWELVE MOONS OF MAALI ALMEIDA by Shehan Karunatilaka Getting to the final few books of the longlist, I was quite excited to dig into this one, getting pitched as the Sri Lankan MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN and one of the favourites to win the Booker next month. For the most part, this delivered a fantastical exploration of recent Sri Lankan history. I love novels that expose wider audiences to histories often forgotten and THE TWELVE MOONS OF MAALI ALMEIDA provides a rich and complex introduction to the Sri Lankan politics, the windy terrain of the conflicts that have left the nation scarred. Maali is a photographer, who has hired himself to all sides of the conflict, capturing haunting images of the Civil War but refusing to take sides, instead scorning all. Murdered by unknown people, he finds himself in an In Between world, with seven days to find out why he has been killed while helping his friends find his photographs that will expose government officials of atrocities committed against the Tamil population. Surrounded by malevolent ghosts and haunted by memories of his past, Maali’s journey is part self-reflection and part thriller. It is probably unfair to compare this to Rushdie’s great work, because while TWELVE MOONS was entertaining, funny and endearing, it does lose steam and the language and politics never rises to the level of ferocity that drives MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN. It felt a bit too comfortable in Maali’s attitude of indifference or scorn toward all forces in the Civil War, robbing of us of MC’s more focused critique of state power. The reveal at the end took me by surprise and the epilogue felt poignant, but I’ll admit my appreciation of the novel waned when I put it down. Will this win? Could very well and I would be fine with that since it will push more readers of literature to explore a history and conflict we only understand peripherally. But is it the best of the short list for me? Probably not.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Andy Weston

    Despite its clear plot, with various mysteries along the way to be wrapped up and solved, as a whole this is just too billowing and cumbersome to work as far as I’m concerned. There’s innovation and some humour, but somewhere the balance is wrong. I enjoyed Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew very much, and Karunatilaka clearly is an impressive author, for example here, in the way he conveys the divide between the spirit and real world entertainingly. But with his protagonist here, a gambling Despite its clear plot, with various mysteries along the way to be wrapped up and solved, as a whole this is just too billowing and cumbersome to work as far as I’m concerned. There’s innovation and some humour, but somewhere the balance is wrong. I enjoyed Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew very much, and Karunatilaka clearly is an impressive author, for example here, in the way he conveys the divide between the spirit and real world entertainingly. But with his protagonist here, a gambling outsider and eyewitness photographer to much that authorities would prefer hushed up, he doesn’t probe deeply enough into Maali and what we get is insubstantial.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Book Wormy

    #BookerLonglist2022 Book 9 Well this is a book that really makes you think. I loved the way this was a kind of murder mystery played out after death with all the possible suspects and all the possible reasons for Maali to be killed. I really enjoyed the rules and regulations of the afterlife and the world building that took place there. This story also provided me with an insight into a time and place I knew nothing about and that is one of the best things a work of fiction can do induce the reade #BookerLonglist2022 Book 9 Well this is a book that really makes you think. I loved the way this was a kind of murder mystery played out after death with all the possible suspects and all the possible reasons for Maali to be killed. I really enjoyed the rules and regulations of the afterlife and the world building that took place there. This story also provided me with an insight into a time and place I knew nothing about and that is one of the best things a work of fiction can do induce the reader to find out about real events.

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