Book review :
Entertaining family saga
Title: Hernando Villa - A Sri Lankan love Story
Author: Terrence Perera
Vijitha Yapa Publications
The unusual tone of a family saga spanning multiple generations is
later intertwined into a series of incidents in Terrence Perera’s
‘Hernando Villa’. The book sheds light on a typical Sri Lankan upper
class family with a unique history.
It makes slight references to the strange and wondrous manner in
which the family made its fortune in the beginning chapter and later
devotes a section to elaborate the amusing tale of how the Gate Mudliyar
managed to become acquainted with Prince Henry.
This incident carved the family’s destiny for it was through
misunderstandings and misinterpretations that the man who was the gate
keeper at the governor’s residence became a leading figure in local
This incident raises a smile in the reader for it is ironic that so
much of importance is attached to the person who vies to serve the
colonial masters of the era.
This ‘white man worshipping’ nature is found throughout the incidents
linked with the history of the family but when it comes to serious
matters like marriage, matrimony with a foreigner is a taboo topic.
This is why we see that a romantic liaison between the Gate
Mudliyar’s son, William, and the Earl’s daughter, Jane, creates a
pandemonium. William’s mother threatens to commit suicide and William
finds himself being forced to acquaint with a Sinhala girl whom he later
History nearly repeats itself with slight alterations to certain
details in the present context. This time it is Reshan and Malkanthi’s
son, Nihal, who falls in love with a Tamil girl – his parents’ friends,
the Rajanathans’ daughter, Padma. However unlike in history the couple
succeeds in convincing their parents and ties the knot.
This portrays how the society has evolved and the perceptions of the
elders and younger generations have changed throughout the years and
forebode what the society holds for the future.
The central theme of the novel then seems to be ethnic relationships.
We get bonds between foreigners and Sinhalese, Tamils and Sinhalese and
Christians and Hindus.
They seem to get on well in their day to day life but as soon as
certain barriers have been lifted or in delicate matters the embers of
suspicion catches fire and rises to the top.
The book seems to comprise several short stories for each chapter
seems to be a story of its own. You get 21 chapters and each chapter
along encompasses an incident which can be taken individually as well as
linked with the main story.
It is much like a jig saw puzzle put together to form the whole
The story is written in simple sentences so that it is ideal for
light reading. Yet the satire behind the tone describing the incidents
sheds light on serious themes.
Many of the cultural and traditional practices endemic to Sri Lanka
are brought to the fore with descriptive details so that event those who
are not familiar with the customs will have no trouble grasping what is
The political change that the country has undergone too is projected
in the background.
‘Hernando Villa’ is a book for readers from all walks of life as you
will be able to identify a part of yourself or those around you with the
ideologies or outlook of the characters, thought they have not been
etched from any particular real life character.