This novel, which starts during the Second World War, is one of love, violence and change for the ex-tea-planting de Silvia family. It is set in Sri Lanka and London. Grace de Silva has five children, and a husband Aloysius who gambles and drinks too much. The world she was brought up in vanishes, and the civil unrest in Sri Lanka forces her children into moving to London where they have to try to adapt to the cultural diversity that confronts them. The exception is Frieda, who stays to look after her parents in their home perfumed by the scent of jasmine and loss.
The de Silvia creative talent combined with their historical legacy enable Grace’s granddaughter Anna-Meeka to achieve what her own parents would not have imagined possible. It is difficult to summarise this novel, because of the intricacy of both the story and the characterisation.
The descriptions of Colombo are exquisite, and Roma Tearne has conjured up in words all the nuances of a past time and place. She has also created a set of engrossing characters from the minah bird Jasper to Meeka who is both intelligent and selfish. However, the characters that dominate the novel are Grace and Savitha, her daughter-in-law. Grace is externally as fragile, delicate and beautiful as the bone china, which she tries to preserve as a family heirloom, but she also has strength and resilience, and like bone china even when cracked by life can still be both useful and beautiful.
This novel is charming, thought provoking and historically interesting, casting a light on the civil unrest in Sri Lanka. It is easy to read yet brim-full of details and characters that stay clearly in your mind, and like bone china its hallmark is quality!