A dead person who addresses himself in the second person “you” for the entirety of the novel is the narrator of Shehan Karunatilaka’s 2022 Booker Prize winning novel The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida. This, in itself, is a striking fact about this novel as the second person pronoun is a difficult narrative voice to sustain meaningfully and entertainingly for nearly four hundred pages.

Set in a five Colombo beach resort in times more tranquil than Sri Lanka’s turbulent present, Amanda Jayatissa’s new novel, You’re Invited, begins when a young woman named Amaya notices dried blood under her fingernails and bruises on her knuckles just before her former best friend Kaavi weds Amaya’s ex-boyfriend, Spencer. Moments later, Amaya hears a knock on the door. Kaavi is missing and a search for her is underway. The mystery may appear solved before the story begins, but there are plenty and twists and turns to come. For the first two-thirds of the book, the chapters finish with an investigator’s interview with a member of the bride’s family or one of the guests. This structure gives voice to more than just the main characters and after each interview there seems to be another possible suspect in Kaavi’s disappearance.

South Asian history is so complex and layered that making sense of it can take considerable effort. T Richard Blurton’s richly-illustrated India: A History in Objects emphasizes precisely this complexity and diversity—“The variety of South Asia is remarkable in terms of language, script, ethnicity, religion and architecture”— rather than a single narrative throughline.

After the Buddha died or, as believers hold, attained Mahaparinirvana, the remains of his body—tooth, hair, bones—were reportedly disseminated to different Buddhist stupas in India. These relics have been understood to be at the centre of various miracles and legends since then and have also been  highly coveted objects. Rulers of various kingdoms have wanted to get hold of these relics in their bid to legitimate their sovereignty with the Buddha’s blessings. As a result, each relic has interesting stories around its existence—about being lost, stolen, refound, and even destroyed.

Return to Sri Lanka: Travels is a Paradoxical Island, the latest book by Razeen Sally, describes the country with the following words:

 

There are shelf-loads of recent books about bigger and better-known countries, not least on Sri Lanka’s giant northern neighbour. But little Sri Lanka hardly pops up on the world’s radar screen. When it does, it presents a fractional, distorted view – bombs going off one day, ethnic riots another day, alleged war crimes. On more peaceful days, it yields tourist images of ‘Paradise’.

 

On the first page of Return to Sri Lanka, Razeen Sally endearingly describes himself as a wonk, ie a technocrat. A political economist and policy advisor on international trade, his writing normally appears in academic journals; this is his first attempt to write something more personal. He was born and grew up in Sri Lanka, but as an adult he lost touch with the country. This book is a personal rediscovery and an exhaustive look at the history and culture of the island.