Summary and book reviews of Island of a Thousand Mirrors by Nayomi Munaweera

Island of a Thousand Mirrors

By Nayomi Munaweera

Island of a Thousand Mirrors
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  • Hardcover: 2 Sep 2014,
    224 pages.

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Book Summary

A stunning literary debut of two young women on opposing sides of the devastating Sri Lankan Civil War—winner of the Commonwealth Book Prize for Asia, longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize

Before violence tore apart the tapestry of Sri Lanka and turned its pristine beaches red, there were two families. Yasodhara tells the story of her own Sinhala family, rich in love, with everything they could ask for. As a child in idyllic Colombo, Yasodhara's and her siblings' lives are shaped by social hierarchies, their parents' ambitions, teenage love and, subtly, the differences between the Tamil and Sinhala people—but this peace is shattered by the tragedies of war. Yasodhara's family escapes to Los Angeles. But Yasodhara's life has already become intertwined with a young Tamil girl's…

Saraswathie is living in the active war zone of Sri Lanka, and hopes to become a teacher. But her dreams for the future are abruptly stamped out when she is arrested by a group of Sinhala soldiers and pulled into the very heart of the conflict that she has tried so hard to avoid – a conflict that, eventually, will connect her and Yasodhara in unexpected ways.

In the tradition of Michael Ondatjee's Anil's Ghost and Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things, Island of a Thousand Mirrors is an emotionally resonant saga of cultural heritage, heartbreaking conflict and deep family bonds. Narrated in two unforgettably authentic voices and spanning the entirety of the decades-long civil war, it offers an unparalleled portrait of a beautiful land during its most difficult moment by a spellbinding new literary talent who promises tremendous things to come.

one

It is 1948 and the last British ships slip away from the island of Ceylon, laboring and groaning under the weight of purloined treasure. On board one such vessel, the captain's log includes the tusks and legs of elephant herds; rubies, emeralds, topaz; fragrant mountains of cinnamon, cardamom, mustard seeds; forests of bony, teak, and sandalwood; screeching peacocks; caged and pacing leopards; ten- foot- long monitor lizards whipping their razor tails; barrels of fermented coconut toddy; the jewel- encrusted thrones of Kandyan kings; the weapons of Chola warriors; priceless texts in Pali and Sanskrit, Sinhala and Tamil.

At the foam- drenched stern, a blue- eyed, walnut- burnt sahib searches for the vanishing island and says to his pale young wife, "A shame, really. Such a nice little place."

And she, only recently having left Manchester for the colony and now returning in triumph, a husband successfully hunted and captured, says, "But so hot! And the mosquitoes! It ...

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About the Book
Before violence tore apart the tapestry of Sri Lanka and turned its pristine beaches red, there were two families. Yasodhara tells the story of her own Sinhala family, rich in love, with everything they could ask for. As a child in idyllic Colombo, Yasodhara's and her siblings' lives are shaped by social hierarchies, their parents' ambitions, teenage love and, subtly, the differences between Tamil and Sinhala people; but the peace is shattered by the tragedies of war. Yasodhara's family escapes to Los Angeles. But Yasodhara's life has already become intertwined with a young Tamil girl's...

Saraswathie is living in the active war zone of Sri Lanka, and hopes to become a teacher. But her dreams for the...
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Reviews

Media Reviews
Forbes (India)

Brimming with vivid imagery: Lyrical and languid in its beauty, brutal and merciless in its violence. You are left with visions of a beautiful, tranquil island shredded with unspeakable terror and loss.

Author Blurb NoViolet Bulawayo, author of We Need New Names
By turns tender, beautiful, and devastating, Island of A Thousand Mirrors is a deeply resonant tale of an unravelling Sri Lanka. Incredibly moving, complex, and with prose you may want to eat, this debut is a triumph.

Author Blurb Alan Brennert, author of Molokai and Palisades Park
Exquisitely written and beautifully evocative of an exotic place and bygone age.

Author Blurb Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander
In Island of a Thousand Mirrors, Nayomi Munaweera writes with ferocity, fire and poetry of the incomprehensible madness of civil war and its effects upon those caught within it, whether in the villages and cities of Sri Lanka, or half a world away. A masterful, incendiary debut.

Reader Reviews
Glen H. (Ovid, ID)

Island of a Thousand Mirrors
If found it difficult to navigate through the maize of relationships in the first half of this novel. Once the war started and the plot narrowed; the characters took shape, and I was moved by the story, and appreciated the authors range and depth ...   Read More

Molly B. (Longmont, CO)

Gorgeous Writing
Munaweera's writing is exquisite. It flows so smoothly it seems casual. There are no wasted words or dull prose. Each sentence is a new structure and complete idea, yet it flows seamlessly between the one before and after. She presents vividly ...   Read More

Greatthoughts.com

A wonderful historical fiction read
I did not know much of Sri Lanka before this lyrical book. Yasodhara tells the story of her loving family who want for nothing. It also tells the story of friendship and lasting ties to another person. A wonderful historical fiction read!

Kristen H. (Hagerstown, MD)

slow at first but then took off
At first, I was not excited to read this book. It was not until I got a little further into the book that it really grabbed my attention. I thought that the characters were well described but did have some difficulty following them. I would ...   Read More

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