I received this book for free from Goodreads in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Published by Macmillan on 2014-09-02
Genres: Coming of Age, Cultural Heritage, Fiction
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 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.Nayomi Munaweera's 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.
I can’t quite remember what caused me to request to win a book about the Sri Lankan Civil War. I’m interested in history and I’ve found in the past that historical fiction is a great gateway into a certain time and place in history. Before this book, I was only briefly aware of the country of Sri Lanka and its civil war. After this book, I know a little more and I’m left in shock about the atrocities committed. And my review will be nowhere near as academic or informed as some of the other reviews on it.
The story follows two women from the different ethnic groups in Sri Lanka, Tamil and Sinhala. The book covers a lot of time with skill, allowing the reader to become familiar with the country as tensions rise and eventually erupt. As other reviewers have said, the book was great in that it didn’t take sides. It showed the atrocities committed by both sides, the level of depravation that comes to the surface in a tumultuous time.
I keep going back to the word ‘atrocities’. It has been a month since I finished this book. My reviews generally suffer from the longer I wait to write a review from the time I finished it. With this book, the plot comes rushing back and makes me wonder why I rated it as an ‘I liked it’ versus an ‘I loved it’. I think part of the reason is that it was not a happy book. That’s not to say that only happy books are good books, but I think I grew weary of the story after a while. The story does not shy away from the evils of war, whether it’s suicide bombings, rape, or executions. Or perhaps the word genocide would be more appropriate. There are scenes that were so disturbing that I would put the book down for a bit before I could continue on. But if I was to give it a new rating now that I’ve reflected on it, I’d bump it up a star. It is an important story to tell, and it shouldn’t shy away from the gruesome details. It needs to be told and needs to be read.
It’s an informed read that makes history personal. It’s not a light summer read, but it is a read that makes the word ‘wow’ rest on your lips.