A stunning literary debut of two young women on opposing sides of the devastating Sri Lankan Civil Warwinner 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 peoplebut 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.
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 ...
Some of the recent comments posted about Island of a Thousand Mirrors. Join the discussion! You can see the full discussion here.
Choice and free will
The poor girl was a walking dead woman. Innocence stolen, culturally shunned, she virtually delivered to the revolutionaries. Her family urged her, unbeknownst how deeply wounded she was, so very heartbreaking. Harboring so much hate for the enemy ... - mal
Could Yasodhara's transition from life in Sri Lanka to California have been made easier?
I don't believe their transition could have been easier. I do believe there was a fine line between continuing their cultural expectations and being 'more' American. Seems to be more a family issue requiring dialog. The sisters had it made compared ... - mal
Did the book make you interested in finding out more about Sri Lankan cuisine?
Yes, every time I read a book that has characters who eat foods from different countries (or even different parts of the US) I am intrigued. I collect cookbooks and have many that feature foods from other areas. The way people eat and how they view ... - Beth350
Did the familial term Thatha (grandfather) contribute to your understanding of the family in Los Angeles?
Familiar with the term from previous cultural reads. Did help in understanding. - mal
Did your reading of the Prologue change after you finished reading the book?
The prologue was appreciated MORE after the book was finished. Powerful to start with but more powerful later. - mal
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.
(Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).
Full Review (812 words).
The country of Sri Lanka covers an area of just over 25,000 square miles. Located off the southern tip of India, the island has been called "the pearl of the Indian Ocean" due to to its shape, location, and natural beauty. Separated from India by about 18 miles at its closest point it is believed that there was a land bridge between it and the mainland up until the 15th century. Today, the chain of limestone shoals, known as Rama's bridge or Adam's bridge can clearly be seen from the air. Full of lush green landscape, tropical forests, waterfalls, and beaches, it is no wonder that, according to Islamic folklore, Sri Lanka was offered as a refuge for Adam and Eve after they were expelled from the Garden of Eden.
There had been tension ...
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