Published by Salt Publishing (UK) and Pan MacMillan India (INDIA and SRI LANKA) November 2019
From the publishers: “On a patch of Sri Lanka’s exquisite southern coast stands the Villa Hibiscus. It is Padma’s home. The owner of the villa, Gerhardt, is an elderly Austrian architect to whom Padma was taken when young by Sunny, her scheming father. He had hoped to use his attractive child to entice the wealthy new foreigner in the area. Gerhardt, in turn, adopted Padma, paying Sunny to stay away until she is grown up, when Gerhardt expects to have sent Padma to university, far away. But Padma fails her exams and, lonely in the city, gladly returns to her beloved old home by the sea. With Gerhardt’s help, she creates a guest house at the villa. Soon, guests start to arrive, opening new vistas for Padma through their friendship and love. Then Sunny appears, ready to reclaim his daughter … A captivating novel about the meaning of home and family, love and loss, Beautiful Place marks the arrival of a dazzling new voice.”
Through the early-morning house Padma went out to the veranda. A breeze came in from the sea, easing in past the araliya trees. Ever since returning to the villa she’d had nightmares. In them she was always a child, alone at night in the villa’s garden, then propelled by an unseen force into a room. And it was the front room of the brothel down the lane as she had seen it one time when the black polythene over the windows flew up with the wind: plastic chairs pushed up against the walls, bottles of arrack, beer in buckets of ice. And men. There were always men. In the dream they crowded over her. She had woken up safe in her room at the villa, but the fear stayed real, fear of the sheer randomness of her luck – for it was only luck, illogical, slight, unfathomable, that had lifted her to safety. Luck didn’t make you feel lucky. Being saved didn’t make you feel safe.
A grey dawn lingered over the garden… The veranda was where all life at the villa flowed, to that view of changing waves out beyond the frangipani trees tangled around the front of the house…Past the trees, the sun made a red-gold rim over the sea. It burnished each ripple of the waves drawing back from the beach, simmering, settling, stilling itself after the wildness of the night. A thin yellow streak spread across the sky, growing to amber, green, turquoise – becoming the blue to come. The birds’ shrill waking cries faded and the garden came to life, filling with the quiet new brightness of morning, the new day begun.