Book Review: The Sixth Night by Silviano C. Barbosa, reviewed by Zoe Ackah

This review is by Zoe Ackah… FN

Book Review – The Sixth Night by Silviano C. Barbosa
By ZOE ACKAH [The Epoch Times July 21, 2005]

The Sixth Night is a scaled down, James A. Mitchener style historical fiction set mainly in colonial Goa. Admittedly, before reading the book I had no idea where Goa was or that it was such a unique and interesting place. Those of you who lived during the hippie era are probably more than familiar with Goa, which gained great popularity as a tourist attraction in the 60s and 70s.

For those who don’t know, located in India, Goa has been on the world stage since the pre-Christian era, first documented by the Summerians around 2200 BC. It has been recognized as a fertile paradise by everyone who has been there since.

In more recent history, Goa was colonized by the Portuguese for 400 years until the 1960s. This creates and interesting cultural mélange. The population is now 30 percent Catholic, 65 percent Hindu and 5 percent Muslim. The cuisine and cultural traditions are a complimentary mix of Asian and European.

The Portuguese were expelled from Goa in 1961 when India “reclaimed” her. It is precisely this point in history, the pivotal generation that experienced Goa’s return to India first hand, that the author explores.

Our main character, Linda, is a simply-drawn Catholic village girl of the shudra caste. Battling caste discrimination with a stunning intellect, and a childhood of good fortune, Linda is the first in her family to receive a high-level education.

The book chronicles Linda’s trials and tribulations as a woman, a shudra, and a Catholic educated in Portuguese just as the English-language-dominated Indian government takes over her homeland. She travels through Europe, ending up in Toronto, Canada.

Having fathered a child by a Portuguese diplomat, from whom she is accidentally separated during the turmoil surrounding Goa’s transition to Indian rule, Linda’s story is the notable personal conflict in the novel.

The details of this conflict are described rather mechanically and superficially. The emotions likely associated with the painful events surrounding the adoption of Linda’s child, and the emotions of the child herself are suspiciously shallow. Indeed, the characters seem unbelievably innocent after all they have been through. The likely consequences of their suffering are left unexplored, and the prose is simplistic.

It seems as if the characters serve merely to explore Catholic Goa’s history and unique culture – a feat the author accomplishes very well, making the country itself the real star of the action. Luckily, the book is well researched, and Goa’s history is sufficiently interesting, making The Sixth Night a worthwhile read for history lovers and travel junkies.

For a look at “The Sixth Night” web-site visit The descriptions of Goa’s geographical beauty, pristine village life, and fantastic food, food
and more food, will make you want to visit. Luckily the government of Goa’s tourism site is really fantastic, and includes recipes for all the food carefully described in “The Sixth Night”.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: The writer Zoe Ackah is editor of ‘The Epoch Times’, a Canadian publication, where this review was published.

GOANET READER WELCOMES contributions from its readers, by way of essays, reviews, features and think-pieces. We share quality Goa-related writing among the growing readership of Goanet and it’s allied network of mailing lists. If you appreciate the above article, please send in your feedback to the writer. Our writers write — or share what they have written — pro bono, and deserve hearing back from those who appreciate their work. Goanet Reader too welcomes your feedback at Goanet Reader is
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About fredericknoronha

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