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BookBrowse Reviews Island of a Thousand Mirrors by Nayomi Munaweera

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Island of a Thousand Mirrors

by Nayomi Munaweera

Island of a Thousand Mirrors by Nayomi Munaweera X
Island of a Thousand Mirrors by Nayomi Munaweera
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2014, 224 pages
    Jan 2016, 256 pages


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Written in stirring prose that evokes the beauty of Sri Lanka and the bloodshed that has destroyed it, Nayomi Munaweera's debut novel is a haunting tale of lives forever changed by terrible violence.

BookBrowse readers are deeply moved by Nayomi Munaweera's debut, Island of a Thousand Mirrors. A full 21 out of 21 reviews gave it a 4 or a 5. Why are so many readers finishing the novel and immediately diving back into it again?

The Island of a Thousand Mirrors is Sri Lanka. In this beautifully written and unforgettable novel, Nayomi Munaweera tells a tale not only of family and romantic love but also of cruel and devastating civil war…This novel was truly an educational and inspirational adventure for me (Rose N). This heartbreaking, wrenching story of two close families, one Tamil and the other Sinhalese, torn apart by civil war, becomes brutally alive as one endures reading about the atrocities created in the name of each side's righteous indignation of one another (Lani S). Munaweera's writing is exquisite…She presents vividly the breathtaking beauty found in Sri Lankan nature and the heart-wrenching joys and sorrows found in human relationships. Matter-of-factly interspersed are intense, brutal, numbing depictions of the unnatural and inhuman actions of civilian warriors…I look forward to more of her work (Molly B). What a gorgeous book, parts of it so heartbreaking I could not control the tears that would flow from my eyes and blurred my reading. When I finished this book I could not put it down so I have started reading it again, and it's better the second time around (Jeanette L).

Readers found Island of a Thousand Mirrors incredibly vivid, and said they were fully transported to Sri Lanka:

Island of a Thousand Mirrors is a memorable book, rich in descriptions of the tastes, smells, and sights of this beautiful place of clear waters, colorful flowers and birds, folklore and family stories. The characters seem very real in their conflicts and decisions and attitudes. In this prize-winning novel, we see that even though idyllic childhoods may devolve into heart-breaking adult years, the beauty and courage of the human spirit resound for the reader. Highly recommended! (Marion W) Island of a Thousand Mirrors was about a place I knew little about, but the author's descriptive language actually allowed me to feel, taste, and see Sri Lanka (Shelley C).

They appreciated Munaweera's ability to explore both sides of the civil war without taking sides:

Munaweera is an exciting and talented new voice. Her writing is quite lyrical and gives voice to each character. I felt emotionally vested in them, no matter their nationality, because Munaweera is capable of finding the humanity beneath the cultural divide (Claire M). This superb novel never takes sides in the conflict and is written with the lushness of all the different Sri Lankan histories and backgrounds. The story explores the personal viewpoints of characters trying to maintain their humanity despite the absurdity of the violence inhabiting their lives. A must-read! (Jan Z)

And they were especially impressed with the way Island of a Thousand Mirrors focused on women's perspectives:

This novel tackles love and war from a primarily female perspective offering insights from opposing sides. The language is rich, descriptive and compelling, as is the storyline (Pam M). Told by the eldest daughter of each family, the story is definitely told from a woman's view (Diane P). Nayomi Munaweera 's prose is so incredibly beautiful that one can visually be transported to stand under the shade of the mango tree or feel the rolling waves of the ocean under your feet…We also learn of the love between family members, their daily rituals, the foods they eat but most of all the humanity of the women in this story (Jeanette L). I am often drawn to books about other countries and for that reason was very interested in reading this book. While I was fascinated to learn about the clash between the Tamil and Sinhalese people, what particularly struck me was how differently the lives are for women in that culture (Julie G).

Readers wholeheartedly recommend the novel:

This is a must-read book for people who love reading about far away lands that they have heard about but have never really understood (Nancy K). I definitely recommend this book for both the beauty of the writing and the importance of the story it tells (Robin M). I like a book that either entertains me or gives me new knowledge and this book did both. It is beautifully written with strong characters. I could almost feel the moist air and greenery of the island of Sri Lanka and had to laugh at the descriptions of LA from an immigrant's perspective. I would recommend it for book clubs as there is a lot for discussion (Mary B). Book groups will find themselves discussing discrimination, arranged marriage, ethnic differences, education, parental desires for their children, the life of the immigrant in a new land, jealousy between siblings, soldier versus terrorist, the effect of violence on people and culture, and the sense of smell (Becky H).

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in September 2014, and has been updated for the January 2016 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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Beyond the Book:
  The Sri Lankan Civil War

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