Punyakante Wijenaike is one of Sri Lanka’s best-known English writers. The Waiting Earth is one her novels which was prescribed for Advanced Level English Literature for some time. I too read it for AL. It was written in a very simple style. The story is set in a rural village and what is described in initial pages is all about the misery of Sellohamy, a young wife and her husband’s plight.The couple’s first child, a deformed son dies within hours of birth and the lady again gets pregnant and this time, with a girl. Husband is unhappy when he sees a baby girl as what he needs is a boy to help him in the farms. He is working as a peasant in someone else’s farms and the only dream in his life is to own his own plot of land.
Things change when an attractive male teacher comes to the school and starts teaching the students. Sellohamy’s daughter becomes a teenager within the same time and she is attracted to the teacher due to the respect she has towards him. But the teacher takes advantages of the attraction and one day seduces her and deflowers her in his hut. The girl is very hopeful that the teacher will marry him but he gets a transfer to a faraway school instead without telling anybody. And he is already married and has his own children too. By this time the girl is pregnant with the teacher’s child and due to the inability to face the village with a fatherless child, she commits suicide.
There is a lot of sex in the book. Maybe the author was targeting the international market for the novel. I taught 3 Advanced Level girls English literature and while teaching The Waiting Earth to them, when the sex scene between the student and teacher reached closer, the girls told me, “Sir, we have read the rest of the story. Let us start another book now.”