Friday, 18 January 2013

Anil's Ghost - #27

In another lifetime, I probably would have been a forensic anthropologist or scientist. If I had known I could study that before I went to uni. And didn't have a sense of smell. And didn't loose my temper when I think something is unfair. And maybe a bit smarter. If all these things were different, I would have become a forensic scientist.

I did what I dubbed a CSI semester at uni. I took 'Law and Social Control' as my Sociology course, 'Advanced Issues in Psychology: Forensic Psychology' as one of my Psych courses, and for my Arts elective (I had my major in Sociology for that degree (I have a BA and a BPsych) but viewed my Arts degree elective as "Do the most interesting thing you can find!") I took 'Forensic Anthropology and Archaeology'. (My other Psych course was so boring and mundane I can't even remember what it was, probably something cognitive or neurobiological. Piffle.). That semester was fantastic. Yes, I sobbed like a little girl while I was writing an essay on the issues with identification of bodies in mass graves in war zones. Yes, I spent a lot of time looking at decomposing bodies. But I got to dig up a "murder" site, and work out what had happened. I learnt how to find occupational markers on bones. There were far too many Yorrick jokes made in labs. It was awesome!

It kinda ties into my love of mysteries I guess. My relaxing zone out TV shows are detective shows, with my guilty pleasures of Bones and Silent Witness. So once I realised that Anil was a forensic scientist, I knew we were going to get along.

The book actually deals with the issues of recent Sri Lanka. The book was published in 2000, so rather contemporary. Sri Lanka has been in a state of civil war for a rather long time, with the Tamils, the Government and another group from the south (can't remember their names, so bad) fighting each other. However it's not soldiers fighting soldiers. This war has involved a lot of kidnapping, torture, maiming, murder and psychological warfare of the civilians of Sri Lanka. And that is by *every* side, which makes it all the more terrifying.

Anil is a Sri Lankan who has run away from Sri Lanka to go to university and then for her career (not because of this war) and this is her first time coming back to her home country. We have the story here of her feeling like a foreigner in her own country, unable to speak the language any more for example, then slowly morphing to embrace the country again. Subtle changes from talking about Sri Lankans as "you" to "us". The reason Anil has coming home is she is working for a human rights organisation and has been sent to investigate the killings of the civilians and to see who is doing the killings, particularly if the Government is involved.

We follow her and her archaeologist she has been assigned too, as well as a couple of other characters we meet along the way, through their investigation of a body. Both trying to work out who killed them, but importantly who the body was. All the while trying to hide their investigation away from the three groups who are possibilities and are more than happy to kill for a cover up.

The story is beautifully written. I got recommended this book by a friend, and another friend who is Sri Lankan recommended other books written by Michael Ondaatje, so it's great when you read a recommended book and author and they live up to the expectation. I will be definitely chasing up his other works.

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