Roma Tearne is a Sri Lankan born novelist and film maker living in the UK. She left Sri Lanka with her family, at the start of the civil unrest during the 1960s. She trained as a painter & filmmaker at the Ruskin School of Fine Art, Oxford and then was Leverhulme artist in residence at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Subsequently she was awarded an AHRC Fellowship and worked for three years in museums around Europe on a project accessing narrative within the collections.

She has written six novels. Her fifth, The Road To Urbino was published by Little Brown in June 2012 to coincide with the premier of her film of that name at the National Gallery in London. She has been short-listed for the Costa, the Kirimaya & LA Times book prize and long-listed for the Orange Prize in 2011 and, in 2012, the Asian Man Booker. Her sixth novel will be out in April 2015

Recent novel

The White City


Finally, after twenty-seven years, the ice is melting …
Published by Gallic, 2017

“Bleak yet beautiful fiction of near-future disintegration”
The Morning Star

Other novels

The Last Pier

Monday August 14th 1939. It began in silence.

“An atmospheric page-turner and Tearne keeps the reader guessing to the end.” Independent

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A lyrical and profoundly moving story of love, loss and civil war, set in Sri Lanka, London and Venice.
Beautifully written, by turns heartbreaking and uplifting, `Mosquito’ is a first novel of remarkable and compelling power.

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Bone China

An epic novel of love, loss and a family uprooted, set in the contrasting landscapes of war-torn Sri Lanka and immigrant London.

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Brixton Beach

‘Prose so lush it appeals to every sense, the pages are suffused with the scents and tastes, ring with the sounds of Sri Lanka and South London…Roma Tearne is an exquisite writer and captivating storyteller, such that the reader is endlessly torn between the desire to linger and the urge to turn the page to see where she will take us next.’

Aminatta Forna

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The Swimmer

‘A tender, unconventional love story unfolds, until tragedy intervenes…Tearne’s descriptions of the wide Suffolk skies are breathtaking; she has a wonderful ability to create atmosphere’

The Times

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The Road to Urbino

Beautifully written and observed, a richly woven plot. Roma Tearne leads us seamlessly between the intensity of art, love in a warm climate, and acute human suffering.

Jon Snow, Newscaster, Channel 4 News

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Happenings in a museum

A short film about the secret life within the Ashmolean museum made during a year long Leverhulme residency.

Nel corpo delle cittá

A film about Rome.
‘…looking for signs in Rome the artist has found Roma, herself; she has found her biography in the city which was always both her past and her present. Like the protagonist in Hiroshima Mon Amour, the characters fuse with their city of origin, perhaps because it is their origin they were looking for.’ Looking for the Self in the City. Laura Scuriatti.


’The Bird Woman unwittingly shows a Venice that they [the onlookers] never knew or had forgotten existed, a city still capable of inspiring wonder and conjuring up the unexpected.’ The Fiction of the Found. Deborah Dean , Curator, Nottingham Castle Museum.


A short film made during a residency at the National Museum of Scotland to celebrate the bicentenary of the Bell Rock Lighthouse.

Brixton Beach

’The most moving novels of war speak of the battles fought within individual hearts..’ Chris Cleave, Financial Times.

The Swimmer

’This tender story of love and loss is deftly infused with the sights and sounds of a Suffolk summer.’ Daily Mail.

Letter from Urbino

’The most moving novels of war speak of the battles fought within individual hearts..’ Chris Cleave, Financial Times.

The Last Pier

’This tender story of love and loss is deftly infused with the sights and sounds of a Suffolk summer.’ Daily Mail.



Writer in Residence at The Imperial War Museum's Archives - March 2015

'Even if I have the help only of yellowing snapshots, a handful of eyewitness accounts, and a few paltry documents to prop up my implausible memories, I have no alternative but to conjure up... the irrevocable: the things that were, the things that stopped, the things that were closed off...' Georges Perec. — During March and April 2015 Roma Tearne will be Writer in Residence at the Imperial War Museum's photographic and film archives. She will be examining the rich, diverse, and hidden life within it that lies undisturbed.

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Aldeburgh Beach

Lookout Gallery, The Aldeburgh Beach Lookout - Saturday 24th October 2015

Roma will take over the beach on the Suffolk coast at Aldeburgh to create a sound and visual installation.