Reviewed by Karen Mudge
Patricia Weerakoon’s novel, Empire’s Children, is a refreshing addition to the genre of Christian fiction. Strong on historical and cultural detail, the book has characters who draw the reader into their lives, into their emotions and ambitions, and engage an immediate interest in their futures.
The book is set in Sri Lanka during the 1950s and 60s, and presents a first hand perspective of the history and culture of a country rarely covered in historical fiction, especially Christian historical fiction. One of the amazing benefits of reading historical fiction is the immersion it gives into the details of life in a time and place which has already passed by, and Patricia’s novel does this very well.
The plot is focused on the lives of the three main characters, Shiro (the daughter of a local tea maker), Lakshmi (a coolie labourer) and Anthony Ashley Cooper (heir to the tea plantations in Sri Lanka). These young people engage one’s interest and emotion from the beginning as each embark on their journey of life from completely different positions, based on their birth and race. They seem to be miles apart from each other in race, culture and opportunity, yet as Patricia weaves their stories, they are not only drawn closer together by circumstance, but the reader discovers they have more in common than could ever have been imagined.
The Christian faith of the characters is woven into their life stories naturally, often being the starting point for their moral choices and influencing their futures. The focus of the story is not the Christian faith of the characters, but rather the way each character deals with what life throws them; and the gospel is present in the advice of friends and family.
The romance in the story is heart warming, and although some sections do not flow as naturally as the tragedies in the story, the author’s own personality and character somehow seem to bubble to the surface in her writing, giving the phrases and sentiments a beautiful uniqueness.
I would recommend this novel as a refreshing and informative read, particularly to those who already love the genre of historical (Christian) fiction, as its uniqueness will not disappoint.