A House in the Country

A House in the Country concerns a returnee, Ray, who has made enough money in London to rebuild a house in Colombo. He is helped by Siri, a young man from the country, and together they talk about building another house, in the country. This is set against the backdrop of Sri Lanka's ongoing civil war. When tragedy comes a bit too close to home, everything changes.

Romesh Gunesekera was born in Sri Lanka, and has been living and writing in London since the 1970s. His writing is frequently elegiac and wistful, casting reflective eyes at 'the spoiled paradise' of his original home.

This kit was produced, along with its companion 'Carapace', to accompany Romesh Gunesekera's tour of Portugal in 2004.


  • Short story 145k complete text of 'A House in the Country'
  • Context 711k background information and exercises


Romesh Gunesekera


Submitted by K-naye on Wed, 08/03/2011 - 12:25


This is a very useful kit, with interesting stories, but I would suggest to add an audio part to it, since those who study English especially adults study it for oral communication purposes. I had many students who were able to read and knew grammar but were unable to understand while they listened and could not speak.

I think a lot of listening helps to improve listening and speaking skills.

Submitted by tanguene on Tue, 08/27/2013 - 15:02


Dear Reader, Romesh is a a master story teller. I liked the story and the role of the narrator. He describes the setting and bridges it with the psychos and thinking of characters, then shapes their mood in accordance to the setting. He makes the environment tense in this neighbourhood where trouble has stayed away even at this war time. The silence here seems to get a new meaning, but the way the narrator describes it make us doubt if there has ever been something new in this tense setting. The narrator prepares us for anything to happen in future as the story unfolds. How he makes the talk between the generous Ray and humble Siri natural under a funny way of relationship in which they stand distant and close at the same time. They are a master and a servant, but also a friend and a friend. We can actually see the image as day talk (“Radio is not on”... “No batteries”). It´s wonderful to see how the talk is woven, it provokes the reader and makes him get curious and choose to read on -short phrases and simple words, but meaningful communication. But as we read on we find out that the setting is an uneasy one, is a place of war, curfews, coups and insecurity which make the catches our expectation we got at the beginning when we got a description of a tense silence. How curfews and coups, partisanship, election boycotts and lack of information (108 “the trouble is no one knows”) are linked to silence? Sometimes Siri seems to bring the picture of people giving up, but woks hard. He blames the people for the situation the country is (Nobody really cares, do they? Except for themselves. ' ). I wonder if is there a relationship between Siri and Sri Lank. Does Siri´s situation of poverty, lack of ways and means and opportunities for a decent life represent all Sri Lankan in the story? Anyway, seems to be so nice to be with Siri´. The story also makes us think about the poor and the rich, the getting all and the poor nothing. 312 'What about the family farm?' 'It's very small. We have one field.' His father had tried milch cows, but couldn't compete with the local MP's people. The narrator tries to take things easy and paint a good picture of the environment and Ray is caught in this thinking too, but seems events show us a violent place. It is a place where a house becomes a danger just by being beautiful, a place where someone is killed for selling newspapers. innocent people killed in appalling ways (look at what they did to Siri´s brother). A place that makes Siri fall in despair, wants to run but (607) “Where is a good place?” The story begins with silence and ends with silence except for the croaking of frogs and trembling of the sky. Thanks Tanguene Maputo

We´re first introduced to this silent and long night (it seems as the day had more than 24 hours), a strange silence because all was mute, even the wind was still. Even the radio was silent. A silence that is deeper than the silence of the curfews. Then we´re introduced to the humble Siri and a generous Ray doing their best to break the silence by talking. Then we´ve the house being renovated and the house in the country that set us in prosperous future. Siri seems to represent the plight of all Sri Lankans (I wonder if the author draws the name SIRisena from SRI LANKA), despair of the people at the face of war, he sounds to be giving up despite all Ray´s encouraging. The role Ray plays sounds as of an outsider who just wonders as he sees strange events evolve into a more volatile stage, while Siri with his artistic and love for building shows a pessimistic mood. But these two characters also discuss politics and social affairs and about war, partisanship, loss and discontent: “Trouble is no one knows.”... “Nobody really cares, do they? Except for themselves. “ They point out to social inequalities, the poor against the rich: Ray -:'Have you built your own house?' Siri : 'No. Not my own. I have no land.' 313 “His father had tried milch cows, but couldn't compete with the local MP's people” Was Ray´s return to Colombo a happy one? I think no, but the best he got there was Siri, who the relationship was beyond that of master and servant. The story shows us how human caring and companionship can improve the environment. The author has employed his craft the make this story enjoyable, apart from the smooth narration we got gestures, talks and actions purely human that make this story look like a real account of an event ( 184 “he would see the need for change. He would talk it over with Siri,his fingers designing in the air.”) It is sorrowful to think about Siri´s resignation, but the question now is how often does it happen in really life in countries where there´s war? How different Siri and Ray are in terms of perspectives (Ray relaxes while Siri is seems to be always concerned) and how similar there are before danger of living a war zone in the end! As the danger came close ray couldn´t keep on a relaxing mood and Siri had no choice at all than falling in complete despair at the killing of his brother. and Ray´s tendency of taking things easy disappear. What was the meaning of the silence of the night before? Maybe that was not a silent night, it was a silencing night. Maybe an omen for the killing of Mister Ibrahim – just for selling newspapers-, maybe it was a signal for both Ray and Siri showing them that their dream of the house in the country could never be realistic. Even in the city one had to run, their house was attacked. 600... 'This destruction. I want to go away.' The eyes softened slightly. 'And you, Sir, have seen the world. Tell me where. Where is a good place?' Now we understand what was wrong with Siri – fear of cruel leaders was a big cloud in his mind that kept him frightened. He was not a weak soul at all, but can´t stand violence. Will Ray stay? Regards Tanguene

Research and insight

We have hundreds of case studies, research papers, publications and resource books written by researchers and experts in ELT from around the world. 

See our publications, research and insight

Sign up to our newsletter for teaching ideas and free resources

We will process your data to send you our newsletter and updates based on your consent. You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the "unsubscribe" link at the bottom of every email. Read our privacy policy for more information.