Eve Out of Her Ruins by Ananda Devi
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|Eve Out of Her Ruins by Ananda Devi|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Stephen Leach|
|Summary: Uncompromisingly grim but told in a lyrical, haunting voice, this grief-riven tale about the underworld of Mauritius is harshly compelling.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 176||Date: September 2016|
|Publisher: Les Fugitives|
At not even 200 pages, Eve Out of Her Ruins is one of the shortest books I've read in a long while, but it's one of the most dramatic. It's also told in a way that I can only describe as brutal: it spares nothing and pulls very few punches, the descriptions stark and unromantic.
The story takes place in Troumaron in Mauritius and follows four young people – Clelio, Savita, Saad, and the titular Eve – living in a run-down slum neighbourhood. Trapped in a cycle of lawlessness and poverty, they are forced into making the worst choices for themselves over and over. It's a world apart from what the tourists see, despite their homes being a stone's throw away from hotels and villas. As they navigate through their lives and try to find a way out, we get to know what makes them tick.
But though the descriptions of what they go through are bleak, the narrative of their internal monologue is anything but. It's fluid and poetic, intended to be lyrical, not hyper-realistic – it's too poetic for the grim reality the characters exist in for that. It almost feels as though the innermost thoughts of the teenage narrators are a separate world they've created, set apart from the grim reality they inhabit. It's an interesting narrative conceit but one that works when you realise what it's trying to do.
The two halves of the novel are so different that it almost feels like they're different stories – the first half is slow and abstract, while the second is immediate and intense, but the way both are written is accomplished and oddly sensory, evoking a tapestry of images, sounds, and smells. Credit has to go to the translator, Jeffrey Zuckerman, for capturing the spirit of the original text so well. It's not the most original plot but it's so beautifully told I was almost willing to forgive that.
This was such an unconventional read. I don't know who I could even recommend it to – some people I could envisage falling in love with it, but equally finding it too slow and opaque. But it's a story about dreams, desperation, justice, freedom, and even love. It's made me never want to go to Mauritius, but I enjoyed this – and the story will sit with me for a long while afterward.
The slow but heavy nature of the story reminded me of another book I reviewed for the Bookbag a while ago – Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe, which deals with mental health and a complicated father-daughter relationship.
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