Anil's ghost," can be read as a war story or it can also be seen as a tale of young woman coming back to her native land to find that she can no longer relate to the land or its culture. However from both perspectives, the book lacks depth and purpose, which is unfortunate since the author was not writing about some far off land but about his own country and their people. The problem with the book lies in its ambiguously developed characters and a general lack of central theme.
The novel is about Tamil-government war in Sri Lanka that also brings in discussion on general political conditions in this part of the world. Sri Lanka is terrorized by decades of civil war, which has left an indelible mark on the country in terms of economic and political decline. The political infrastructure and various governmental institutions have collapsed under charges of deep-rooted corruption and bureaucratic fraud. A westernized expatriate might find the land more fascinating than anyone residing in the surrounding region and this fascination is what brought the novel's protagonist Anil back to her country. However while the story starts well, it doesn't evolve in similar manner and completely lacks purpose or depth, which renders the work meaningless and characters vague.
The development of characters leaves much too be desired since what is implied in the novel has little or no bearing on the personality or behavior of the characters. The ambiguity of the novel contributes to the lack of depth in characters. If the protagonist appears a shallow figure with no clear cut views and no specific ideals, then it is all due to the fact that author did not write the novel with specific theme in mind. A clear purpose and theme would have made the characters stronger especially the central character of Anil that is unfortunately as vague and meaningless as the rest of the characters in this book. The novel's female lead has been assigned some masculine qualities but how they make her character any better or different is simply not mentioned. Throughout the book, Anil does the same things anyone else would do in her position, so how does her name being Anil makes any major difference to her character?
Some of the passages are so downright unnecessary that they appear to do the work of fillers even though the author seems to assign great deal of significance to them. For example the entire story [pp67-68] about how Anil got her name shows nothing but her desire to have a masculine name. "She gave her brother one hundred saved rupees, a pen set he had been eyeing for some time, a tin of fifty Gold Leaf cigarettes she had found, and a sexual favor he had demanded in the last hours of the impasse" All this for her name, what does it imply? Nothing. If the author had some purpose for inserting this story, then he sadly forgot to mention it in the book because the story is completely disconnected with the plot. Not only this particular story, in fact many other passages and comments made in the novel about people and places have been inserted for the sake of expanding the work. There appears no significant purpose for their addition. For example when Anil begins her investigation for the human rights group, she comes across a place where Buddhist sculptures were carved "out of the walls with axes and saws" [p. 12] and the engraving describes it as "the place of a complete crime." What does this mean? How do we know that the place is known for crime? Even if it is, what relation does it have to the entire story? Such scenes are mentioned and then quickly forgotten and the same happens to the characters that fail to develop or evolve in consistent manner and some of the things they say is absolutely meaningless which adds to the ambiguousness of their mental and emotional side. "She used to believe that meaning allowed a person a door to escape grief and fear. But she saw that those who were slammed and stained by violence lost the power of language and logic" [p. 55]. The various insights about war and how it helped Anil find 'meaning' are illogically simple such as Anil finding out that "The reason for war was war" [p.…