Sunday, May 07, 2006

The Girl - Meeting Sonia Faleiro

Sonia Faleiro’s debut novel, The Girl, begins with a funeral. Through shifting narratives and timelines, it goes on to explore the life, despair and death of the Girl, in a fictional Goan village, Azul, aptly referred to as “the Village of the Dead”. The Girl remains unnamed through the book, giving free rein to the reader’s imagination, while other characters like Simon or Mama Lola are painted in vivid word pictures.

Sonia and I got freewheeling on how the book came to be. ‘I was in Edinburgh and, as a respite from hours of research for my thesis, I opened a Word document and began writing the story. The sense of isolation at being away from home, also wound its way in.’ she says.

It’s this overwhelming loneliness and sense of loss that sets the novel apart from stereotypical representations of Goa and its people. The melancholic side to Goa that the author has portrayed is something that the Goans identify with, as evidenced by responses on the message board of her website. And the non-Goan readers believe that they’re finally seeing a different facet to Goa in this book.

In early February 2006, at the launch of the book, Gregory David Roberts, the author of Shantaram, said, “With the first book of an author, we, as readers, have been given the privilege to be part of something that’s flowering and growing in the garden of our literary appreciation. The Girl is a marvelously well-written first book, and it’s by a young writer at the beginning of her career. Her talent is only going to get more refined and every book after this, bigger and better.”

It took two years for Sonia to write The Girl, and the only part of the story, that posed a minor challenge, was the character of Luke. ‘It wasn’t a challenge as such, but it did take some effort to get into the skin of a twenty-something American backpacker.’ However, after the book, she feels her writing has evolved and has since come closer in form to her journalism.

Sonia is now writing full-time on her second work of fiction and a non-fiction title. She has an American agent who will represent her and The Girl will soon see an international edition and translation. Sonia continues with her journalism, focusing on the numerous issues that she believes need to be written about and addressed.

Among her favourite authors, Sonia loves the work of Anita Desai and Vikram Seth and among books, Shop Girl by Steve Martin.

Sonia Faleiro is being hailed as a fresh new voice in the world of Indian fiction and handles the accolades with grace, saying simply, ‘It’s been good.’ 

(an edited version published in the May 3, 2006 issue of Deccan Herald, Bangalore. Pics courtesy

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