Monday, 17 August 2015
BOOK REVIEW: THE BLUE DRAGON BY YIOLA DAMIANOU-PAPADOPOULOU
Reviewed by: Sandra Scholes
Publisher: Wattle Publishing
The Blue Dragon is only one of Yiola's novels, The Forest's Whisper, Our Heart's Journeys; A Life is Destiny, My Other Half; Hold on Through Your Dreams, This is How I Want to Remember; And the Slow Dance. For the novels she has won the Cyprus State Award in 1992 and the National Press Award and the Cyprus State Award for Children's Literature. As well as children's literature, Yiola also writes short stories for adults, Batoune and African Moments. She is a keen all-rounder and in this novel she excels.
The Blue Dragon is the story of the tsunami that hit Sri Lanka in December of 2004 and gives a detailed account of what happened. This book is suitable for readers ten and over and consists of 12 chapters. First published in Cyprus, Yiola introduces us to Hanseni and her family. Hanseni dreams of going to the school on the hill with the red windows and knows like many on the island that dreams rarely come true. Life is hard for the people there as they have to source and sell the food they produce, so hours of work takes up a lot of their time and effort to be able sell it on. The story is set before Christmas and Hanseni and her younger brother Awade are on the beach when the terror first strikes. Wildlife leaves the area and the sea growls and Hanseni knows something is wrong, but worse, she remembers that what her grandmother told her when she was young was very true. All the signs were there and Hanseni needed to get Awade to safety.
Yiola gives readers an idea of the resourcefulness of Hanseni and Awade during the tsunami. They were scared but took refuge on the branch of a tree until the sea had stopped rising and the tale is told from the perspective of the people who live to know the fallen who weren't so lucky. The chapters take readers through the lives of one family living in Mangora Village - southern Sri Lanka and how they will cope with the onslaught of the tsunami when it finally hits. Where Hanseni lives is part Christian and part Buddhist so the children grow up with the knowledge of karma, that both good and bad things happen to people no matter who they are. Rajeeva is their mother who is poor, but does what she can for her family before Christmas. She gets her gold necklace from the bank and pawns it for money so she can buy her children presents to make them smile. Yiola gives the impression that this is the only valuable thing she owns that she can use to get money when she needs it in a hurry.
The true devastation of the tsunami can be felt in the story by the people it affects. The tsunami's height is mentioned by Hanseni when she sees it rise above them on the beach, and you could be forgiven for thinking that they are the first ones to have seen it before the devastation begins. Yiola accurately describes what it is like for Awade trying to hold onto the branch while he is being covered by the water from the wave. Hanseni risks losing him to the tsunami and knows she is powerless to protect him. In the aftermath, Yiola shows the true power of the people who rally together to dredge the water from their houses.
What Hanseni and her family as well as the other people in the novel do is a feat of extraordinary proportions in the face of adversity, and it is amazing. While many would despair, these people carried on, trying to see it a mere act of god they couldn't control - they accepted it and got on with their lives. Yiola includes as a final chapter, A Fairy Tale, which tells of what Buddhists believe, the nature of things and a few short tales that could be of interest to the reader that were to me.