‘The Painted Ocean’ – Gabriel Packard

The Painted Ocean


This novel is due for publication in early March 2016, and I would like to thank NetGalley for the ARC I received in exchange for an honest review.

From the way this book is ‘sold’ to the reader it is a touching coming-of-age story that focuses on our narrator, Shruti, and her coming-to-terms with the fall-out from her Indian mother’s family demands to return to India – without her daughter – and remarry. The inevitable confusion Shruti feels as she deals with playground racism, her mother’s refusal to break the traditions of her home culture and her own needs was, at times, heart-breaking.

This initial section of the book was absorbing, and was definitely given some spark through the arrival of Meena – the only student in Shruti’s school who seems to have any idea of what she is experiencing. Meena really is a sparky character, but her selfishness is apparent from early on and Shruti’s dependence on this character is painful to watch.

This discomfort becomes more so as we witness Shruti and Meena head to university. Shruti cannot find her place, and her need to belong somewhere seems to be at the heart of many of her decisions. Watching Shruti do everything she can to cling on to her childhood friendship is what gets her into the sticky situation that forms the central part of the novel.

Without giving away any details this section was not really prepared for, and I felt it was bordering on preposterous. The behaviour of Meena and her boyfriend during this section was appalling, and the way in which they degraded Shruti was deeply unpleasant to read. Meena attempts to redeem herself, but for me the damage was done. I also disliked the way this section of the story seemed to not link to what came before, and I felt the book suffered for this.

By the final section, where things seem to be going well for Shruti, it read like the kind of story that someone is determined to get through without even trying to bring the reader with them.

Ultimately, I found this disappointing – particularly as it started off so well.