Bone China, By Roma Tearne

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The Independent Culture

Events in Sri Lanka give a tragic timeliness to Roma Tearne's sweeping, affecting saga of one island family and its fate at home and abroad. In the decades after 1939, the ancestrally posh but increasingly poor de Silvas move from the lush tea-growing highlands of Ceylon to steamy Colombo and then – as independence both opens doors and stokes conflict between Tamils and Sinhalese – to a chilly London that some of the clan will slowly come to love.

Ambitious in scope, companionable in tone, the novel contrasts the troubled patricians of a "Crown Rule" colony with their confused migrant offspring – and, finally, with the adaptive optimism of Anna-Meeka, a street-smart Brixton kid. As much as the titular china – exquisite, delicate, but broken in transit – the classical music the de Silvas love lends this generous tale its aura of fragile grace.

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