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DateLine Wednesday, 07 May 2008

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Samantha Sirimanne Hyde's creativity is like a crystal

It's not a hyperbole. It's my true estimation of Samantha Sirimanne Hyde's creativity. Her stories are even poetic in expression. Hence my simile "crystal"

Who is this writer? In brief there is a note in the back of her book- The Villawood Express & other stories. It says "Samantha Sirimanne Hyde was born in Sri Lanka in 1960 and migrated to Australia in 1990. She holds a Master of Arts in Creative writing from Macquire University, Sydney.

After having worked as a public servant for over fifteen years, she and her husband now operate in a motel in county New South Wales."

What is my overall impression of her collection published by Ginninderra Press, P.O.Box 6753Charnwood ACT 2615?

Well, I can sum it up like this: The book contains extremely cleverly crafted and beautifully described stories that depict the human condition in varied settings of characters caught in an inevitable predicament.

There are 12 stories in this collection. One of her stories titled A Trace of Lavender was awarded 2004 FAW (Victoria) Jenifer Burbridge Short Story Award. Another story titled A Temporary Reprieve was published previously by University of technology Sydney in Querelle 07.

The publishers say more about her themes: Her stories revolve around themesof love, loss, identity, displacement and fate. At the heart of each story is a conflict, sometimes deeply psychological and disturbing and, in others,more sociological but intense in its impact on the characters. Let me now present in capsule form the essence of each story with my responses.

The Villawood Express

It is the story of a middle aged Thai woman teacher with three children lured into prostitution in Sydney by an unscrupulous couple with only a visiting visa. She is eventually deported to her homeland with a lot of relief of her.

The language used by the writer is very effective. Class of '53 Reunion It's about two happily married couple. But it's the naivety and the revelation of the unrequited love of the woman towards her previous lover that haunt them, It's a poignant piece of emotionally charged and yet restrained writing.

Of Clouds and Friends

This a story of betrayal of one of the two Lankans in Australia, One is a permanent resident and the other is on an expired student visa. Space would not permit me to analyze the story in proper terms.

Harold's decision

This is a psychological story on a less bold man towards women. As he was about to settle down with affection with one woman, to his dismay she leaves. Here again as in all her stories Samantha captures through effective use of language the nuances in the narration.

A temporary reprieve

This story takes place in Germany. It's about A German boy and a Lankan boy. It is about homosexuality and the AIDS. It's again poignant.

A Trace of Lavender

A less-abled Tommy Murugesu from Chennai has a visa problem in Australia and deported to New Delhi utterly helpless. Even his brief encounter of affection and love shown by Elissa, an Australian woman could not help him to get his permanent visa because of 'fate' and missed opportunities.

The Keyhole

This is set in Lanka and the writer almost in 'naturalistic' mode presents a story suggestive of homosexuality and the sordid conditions prevailing in the shady areas as viewed by Australia returned Lankan woman.

A Garden Bloom for the New Year This is recapture of one of the terrible scenes in 1983 where a Sinhala woman married o a Thmilian undergoes humiliation.

The other stories in this collection equally keeps you in tension and one never loses one's grip in understanding the stories in the context of social reality and human psyche.

I would ask our readers to read the whole book which include what I left out mentioning in this column.

They are "The Doctor's Wife", " Shadows from a Clay Lamp"," Ranjith's Thesis" and "William's Consolation" Here are only two instances of her poetic descriptions that match the seriousness of the content and deep empathy of her characters that Samantha is able to resent to us a narrator of themes in contemporary lives whatever the locale is.

The clouds looked unkempt, like the wool on the back of a sheep ravaged by the elements. The rivercat chugs past the embankment, sloshing froth in its wake, making the normally calm water ripple all the way to the edge of the riverbank.

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