A Novel Not to Be Missed by Anyone Concerned with the Consequences of War

September 15, 2014 Book Review 9

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

A Novel Not to Be Missed by Anyone Concerned with the Consequences of WarIsland of a Thousand Mirrors by Nayomi Munaweera
Published by St. Martin's Press on September 2nd, 2014
Genres: Fiction, Literary
Pages: 256
Source: complimentary review copy
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Sometimes a book comes along so devastating in breadth and yet so beautiful in its prose you feel as though you’ve been immersed in a dream-like state while reading ~ Island of a Thousand Mirrors delves into the lives of two girls born in Sri Lanka – Saraswathi born into the Tamils and Yasodhara born a Sinhala.  I’m ashamed to admit but I didn’t even know there was a civil war in Sri Lanka…wasn’t even aware of the 25 years of hell Sri Lankans endured from 1983 til as recent as May, 2009.  The beauty of reading a book like Island of a Thousand Mirrors is the astonishing facts you learn about the world.

Nayomi Munaweera has written a fantastically lyrical novel of two girls on each side of the conflict and the direct consequences to each and her family.  There is no right or wrong bias written into the novel; there really is no deep philosophical debates about the hows and whys of the conflict which only adds to the impact of the novel.  About halfway through I had to stop and google the Sri Lankan conflict to see which side was in the wrong. . .why do we have this need for life to be black and white?  There is no black and white in the Sri Lankan war, only war crimes committed by both sides and horrific numbers of civilians killed during the 25-year war.  Such is the way of most wars.

Sometimes I get this breathless feeling that the war is a living creature, something huge, with a pointed tongue and wicked claws.  When the tanks rumble past in the far fields, I feel it breathe; when the air strikes start and blood flows, I feel it lick its lips.  I’ve grown up inside this war, so now I can’t imagine what it would be like to live outside it. {Saraswathi pg 130}

From the jeweled beaches of Sri Lanka into the hills of California, Munaweera not only creates characters you fall deeply in love with, she decorates the scenes with prose that immerses you into the flora and fauna.  The culture of both the Tamils and Sinhalians are adeptly revealed in the novel; the arranged marriages, distinct role differences between male and female, the tragic consequences of living in the midst of a war, and the subtle and not-so-subtle changes endured by immigration.  Munaweera tackles intensely deep subjects with finesse – my only complaint being I felt Yasodhara’s family and history were more prominent than Saraswathi’s.

Still, Island of a Thousand Mirrors is one of those novels that will leave you pondering the individual lives of civilians while enduring war as opposed to seeing just the numbers of those affected.  While based on the Sri Lanka civil war Island of a Thousand Mirrors could have easily been about two girls from Syria and Iraq or Moscow and Ukraine or any of the other many wars occurring around our world.  This is a book not to be missed.

Have you ever read a book that though a fictional version of an actual event had you researching and delving into the real-live account?

9 Responses to “A Novel Not to Be Missed by Anyone Concerned with the Consequences of War”

  1. Shannon @ River City Reading

    Like you, I wanted more of Saraswathi’s story and I really wish that the first half of the novel had been condensed in order to tell it. I feel like Munaweera did a great job with both voices and the impact of the ending might have been stronger if Saraswathi had been introduced earlier. Still, I was so glad to have read about the war and its impact, since its something I didn’t know much about before.
    Shannon @ River City Reading recently posted…It’s Monday September 15th, What Are You Reading?My Profile

    • Stacy

      Saraswathi’s story had me crying buckets and raging at the unfairness. My sweetheart kept telling me to breathe cause it was “just a book” ~ I bet you can imagine the response that got from me 😉

      I’m totally with you about condensing the beginning in order to introduce Saraswathi earlier, or even adding to the total number of pages but including some of her family’s background. I wondered if the author was making a subtle statement about right/wrong by having Saraswathi’s storyline be much shorter. Overall though this one made a big impact on me and I’m still thinking about it! Wonderful to have another blogger to discuss this one with!
      Stacy recently posted…A Novel Not to Be Missed by Anyone Concerned with the Consequences of WarMy Profile

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