Book Review

September '14

Island of a Thousand Mirrors (Hardcover)
Nayomi Manaweera

This is a really important book by a debut novelist, who has been compared to both Michael Ondaatje ( The English Patient) and Jhumpa Lahiri (The Namesake).  

I was first struck by the beauty of the writing, sentences that I stopped to read again.  Here is an opening paragraph.  "My name is Yasodhara Rajasinghe and this is the story of my family.  It is also one possible narrative of my island.  But we are always interlopers into history, dropped into a story that has been going on far before we are born, and so I must start much earlier than my birth, and I must start with the boy who will become my father."  Pulls you in, doesn't it?

This is a story of Ceylon, of Sri Lanka, of the civil war that took place over decades as rival forces struggle for power.  And yes, there is violence, and there is blood.  There is also so much beauty in this story that you are drawn through the war by your loyalty to the characters, their story and their land.  Two main characters, one Tamil and one Sinhala were raised virtually together before the troubles, and appear and reappear as the story moves along.  I won't tell you more, because it would spoil it, and you really need to read this book.

Island of a Thousand Mirrors has won the Commonwealth Book Prize for Asia, quite an accomplishment for a first time author.  Highly recommended.