book review: island of a thousand mirrors

Island of a Thousand Mirrors by Nayomi Munaweera is erotic and sensual. It is not a story of lust, but it is a story of human emotions and turbulence. It is erotic in its descriptions, it is sensual in the nakedness with which it bares the protagonist’s soul. It is contained in its depiction of a war-struck Sri Lanka; the country and it’s turmoil is neither glorified nor condemned. There is a story and it had to be told.

island of a thousand mirrors

The book evokes a land that I have visited, but I do not know… it evokes a story that could have been mine. It talk to me about a culture, that is so similar to all I know. It narrates the story of those who are ravaged by very similar issues as I see in my country, India. There is the over-arching quest for contentment, a fulfilling life and one that is filled opportunities. This book made me think about all the wars that are fought, all the wars fought by all those very-similar people.

We all want a life that makes us live to our fullest, achieve our complete potential or what we see as our potential. But when two groups or even just two humans are confronted by limited resources, how can I not triumph You? War.

This is a story told through the lens of two girls, of two lives set far away from each other but in the same Civil War. One girl is a Sri Lankan Buddhist and the other is a Tamil. Both are impacted by the war, and both adapt to it in different ways – one confronts and the other escapes. One pines and almost withers, while the other seems to find herself. But whomever they become, dreams are squashed, stifled, modified and far from their lives. There is the third girl, the bystander watching this drama unfold who gets sucked in.

There are some beautiful lines and I want to mention a few. I hope they inspire you to pick up ‘Island of a Thousand Mirrors’ by Nayomi Munaweera.

“… her stiffly held head, eloquent in its disapproval.”

“Outside the window, the entire village gathers, an agitated anthill.”

“Into the fish curry, she stirs coconut milk and heady perseverance”

A description about Jafna.

“In the North, where grasping fingers of land reach into the frothing ocean.”

“He worries about the stain of village in his speech.”

“I had not realised our out-of-placeness was so insistent.”

About Sri Lankans far away from their land…

“As spectators, we do not have the privilege of indignation or anxiety.” 

“Sometimes I get this breathless feeling that the war is a living creature,
something huge, with a pointed tongue and wicked claws.”

“… but only little pieces of the men they longed to be”

“Behind me I feel the cold weight of her disappointment.”

‘Island of a Thousand Mirrors’ is one of the best books I have read in a long time. It is one of those books you wish was longer when you reach the last page…  Pick it up, read it and tell me what you think.

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2 thoughts on “book review: island of a thousand mirrors

  1. hope you like it! delhi thatha thought it didn’t cover the sri lankan civil war as well as he hoped it would.. 🙂 and he had other negatives! fingers crossed that you like it!

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