Empires are born to die; that’s one source of their strange allure. An untenable form of society judders, in technicolor and often loudly, to an inevitable end. Romesh Gunesekera was born in Ceylon in 1954, and much of his fiction has lingered in fascination on its years as a dominion — no longer a colony, not yet a republic. Reef, his first novel, took us to 1962, to the island’s coast and the childhood of Triton, a gifted chef. Suncatcher, his sixth, is back in the capital Colombo two years on.
Kairo, who’s narrating what was then his teenage point of view, is a similar boy to Triton: same curiosity, same restlessness, same goodness of heart. He goes to school, when it isn’t closed — though usually it is. The government’s a mess, and there are whispers of revolution from speakers on passing vans.