Gatehouse is an East Anglian based publisher - their aim is to support new writers, primarily through publishing poetry and short stories -
This is first appearance of Amanthi Harris on The Reading Life. I hope to follow her literary work for many years.
Lantern Evening by Amanthi Harris wonderfully captures the stream of consciousness of Ria, a young Buddist woman, close to the anticipated birthdate of her first child. She grew up in Sri Lanka though she now lives in north London with her husband and her parents. North London is very much a diverse part of the city with a large immigrant population. Her neighborhood is largely a mixture of Tamil and Muslim famlies.She wishes her grand parents were alive to be with her and she has loving memories of her childhood in Colombo. It is May, the month in which Vasak Day, an observation of the birthday, enlightenment and death of the Buddha, occurs, always during a full moon day. Of course this impacts deeply Ria’s conflicted feeling about her baby.
When we meet Ria she is on a bus on the way to her prenatal exam. Ria has a sense of guilt as she is not as happy about becoming a mother as she feels she should be. We sense she is projecting onto the baby a reluctance to be born, to leave the womb. Back home her father has brought home traditional lanterns used to observe Vasak day. We see Ria’s mother is domineering. Ria has accepted an invitation to spend Vasak day at the house of her mother’s sister. Her mother is insisting she Go. Ria agrees but we sense bad feelings. Harris does a marvelous job with the family dynamics.
The visit to the house of the aunt is a classic of family rivalery, one upmanship and a brilliant satirical presentstion of a gruesomely funny generational holiday visit. The snobish young cousins of Ria make it perfect. Anybody who has ever dreaded a family gathering will love this scene.
I dont want to give away too much as the birth approaches. As I read of the very kind treatment Ria received at the maternal ward, I could not help but recall the dehumanizing way Sophia in We Got Our Spoons at Woolworths was treated. I think Barbara Comyns would admire Lantern Evenings.
The conversations, the family relationships are gems. Harris is also telling a tale of the immigrant experience and the transformation of London by the influence of former colonials.
Above all there is Ria as she struggles with her fears and doubts. In a way the baby brings freedom to Ria.
Harris has brought numerous persons very much to life, we have Ria, her domineering and loving mother, her quiet father, the snobbish aunt and the obnoxious showing off their money cousins as well as her husband. The depiction of their relationship is intriguing and as a side bonus i learned a bit about the observation of Vesta Day in London.
In March I shall post upon another story of Amanthi Harris.
“I was born in Sri Lanka and grew up in Colombo. Later I moved to London where I have been ever since, with an escape now and then to Paris and to Sint Truiden in Belgium, to Goa and Cornwall and currently the Sierra Nevada mountains in Spain where I am on sabbatical.
I studied Chemistry then Law at Bristol University, and far more usefully, Fine Art at Central St Martins. I’ve been a terrible trainee solicitor, a very bored editor of law books and a blissfully contented bookseller, writing and making art along the way. I’ve had short stories published, one of which, Red Sari is taught in schools in Sweden and I have also had stories commissioned for and broadcast on BBC Radio 4 as Afternoon Readings. I won the Gatehouse Press New Fictions Prize 2016 with my novella Lantern Evening which is published by Gatehouse Press.
I have a Fine Art practice using drawing, painting and 3D and am with the V22 artist collective.
I also run StoryHug an Arts Council England funded project using art and stories to inspire creativity and community.” From the author