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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 the blood flows, I feel it lick its lips Island of a Thousand Mirrors is an intense and vivid portrait of a piece of Sri Lankan history that I was relatively unfamiliar with before reading this A remarkable debut by Nayomi Munaweera, this novel is beautifully written, juxtaposing the stunning landscape of this island country with its ravaging horrors of a civil war The imagery is remarkable As a reader, I could easily envision the bright colors, the sounds and the mouth watering market smells of the island I was then jolted into the shocking scenes of brutality and often graphic violence of the war The story is narrated by two daughters, Yasodhara the Sinhalese and Saraswathi the Tamil We quickly learn that the two ethnic groups clash, ultimately leading to war But before this happens, we learn a lot about Yasodhara Rajasinghe and her parents and grandparents We glimpse forbidden love and perhaps squirm at the custom and sorrow of arranged marriages We meet Shiva, the Tamil boy that lives upstairs from the Rajasinghes his family lives in fear as the conflict between groups escalates outside the safety of the four walls of their home Yasodhara s family will opt to leave their homeland and escape to America where they must try to fit in The author s portrayal of their efforts to understand and assimilate into the American culture is well done often moving and sometimes quite humorous On their first visit to the supermarket, Yasodhara proclaimsAt the supermarket what riches greet our eyes What mounds of dew dripping, perfectly formed vegetables Mountains of tangerines, sparkling red onions, bloodless meat We had not imagined such munificence was possible, that there were so many ways one could clean a countertop, so many specialized ways of wiping an assHa How true is that But Yasodhara and her sister, Lanka, or La, are not satisfied with life in America and will eventually return to their home to help those left stranded and orphaned by the war Much later in the book we hear the voice of Saraswathi I wish her section was not started so late in the book She has grown up in a war zone and knows no other life but that of soldiers, barbed wire, and young men that never return to their families She has a dream to become a teacher and sustains herself with this hope for her future A crushing cascade of events due to the brutalities of this war will cause her life to intersect with that of the Rajasinghe family Two families unknown to one another will forever be linked This truly was a powerful story about the senselessness of war It was often heartbreaking, sometimes graphic in its depictions of struggle and bloodshed At the same time, it is an honest portrayal of both sides of a conflict such as this We come to see the misunderstandings, the reactions to unthinkable deeds, and the hurt that propagates the act of destroying our fellow human beings It s not all hopeless though life does go on and simple wonders can provide happiness and salvation I highly recommend this book to lovers of historical fiction and lush writing My only complaint other than the late introduction of Saraswathi is that I had a little difficulty keeping track of Yasodhara s family There were several relatives that came and went in the earlier part of the story and not being familiar with the names, I had to remind myself who was who Fortunately, a family tree is provided at the beginning of my hard copy, so I was able to frequently flip there to refresh my memory 4.5 stars This is a moving saga of two families caught up in the civil war in Sri Lanka between the largely Buddhist Sinhalese majority and the largely Muslim Tamil minority It is beautifully written, full of lyrical portrayals of daily life amid the beauty of the land and sea and flora and fauna of this island nation The sensuous world of food, colorful clothes, and family traditions of fishing and commerce as painted by two girls growing up in loving families gives way to the fears wrought by smoldering prejudices between peoples exploding into pervasive violence A doomed teen love relationship between the cultures is poignantly portrayed Tamil children are tragically taken up into guerilla training A girl in the Tamil family is raped and gets radicalized enough to join and fight with the insurgent Tamil Tigers The Sinhalese family takes the opportunity to emigrate to California, facing a new kind of alienation there Years later, the narrator and her sister return to take up the challenge of building a new society founded in hope and understanding.I had only limited understanding of this war based on books by Ondaatje and news accounts over the decades For other GR readers in the same boat the Wiki article on the civil war can provide some help For 25 years, from 1983 to 2009, the intermittent violent conflict resulting in 80 100 thousand deaths These are ancient peoples with distinct languages, cultures, and traditions The British colonial government before independence contributed to setting up the war by policies favoring the majority Sinhalese The Tamil Tigers resorted to terrorist extremes in their push for independence, while the Sinhalese dominated government often resorted to genocidal brutality The Indian government and the UN tried to intervene, but their efforts were usually ineffectual, and the war finally ended through military conquest of the Tamil forces by the Sri Lankan government.The book stands above such details and speaks to the power of family bonds to instill the drive for life in their youth sufficient to navigate the forces of hate in the world and forge solutions borne of love. Some books, just by the nature of the subject and content are so incredibly hard to read This was one such book Portraying two families, caught up in the violence of Sri Lanka, one family leaves and goes to the United States, one family stays in what they consider their home.Did not know very much about this subject before I started reading this book, but now know much That doesn t mean I understand it, I don t think I will ever understand how one group of people can decide they are better than another, but it just keeps happening The first part of the book is used to acquaint the reader with the beginning tensions in the country and to let the reader forge a personal relationship with some of the characters The bewilderment of the family in the United States, their first glimpses of America and of course the culture shock and the struggle to fit in is brilliantly related I really enjoyed that part and it rang so true.The second part shows the full horror of the Tamil Tigers, the abuses perpetuated by both sides and shows the violence against women, the hard cost to families and the deaths and cruelty of many A very well written book about a hard subject I applaud the authors unbiased writing and that she took the time to show the reader the full cost of these hostilities on regular families just trying to live normal lives Bravo.ARC from NetGalley. I knew pretty much nothing about the civil war in Sri Lanka before I read this novel About half way through, I stopped reading to learn so I could better understand this story I learned that this war lasted over 25 years from 1983 2009 and that 80,000 100,000 people were killed What those articles didn t tell is the story of how this war impacted the people s lives This book, however, beautifully tells the heart wrenching story of what the Sri Lankan people endured during this civil war.It s about the people from both sides of that struggle and how it took their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters and scarred their lives forever It really is mind boggling that this small volume holds so much Yes, it is mainly about the war but it is about the culture, about marriages arranged marriages and love marriages, about the caste system and prejudices over skin color and about the immigrant experience, about familial love and childhood friendships.There are two narratives Yasodhara, a Sinhalese, tells the story of her family in Sri Lanka before and at the start of the hostilities They have the means to leave for America as the war is beginning They immigrate to California, but eventually, Yasodhara and her sister La return to their home island Saraswwathi tells the story of her Tamil family in the midst of the horrors of the war Horrible things happen and the family experiences loss and brutality.So brutal are the acts against her that she can easily become a Tiger and kill her enemies without hesitation.The violence and sadness, the loss of life depicted here reminded me of how I felt while reading The Almond Tree Parts of the book were difficult to read graphic in detail but the writing is just so good.Towards the end of the book I held my breath wondering if I had guessed what would happen I did and it was than heartbreaking even though I knew what was coming.No side is portrayed as right or wrong each group of people equally suffers atrocities Even in the grief in the end there is love and a hopeful look to the future.I don t know what to say except wow Highly recommended Thanks to NetGalley St Martins Press It is always hard for me to read a book that talks about immigration Living in a world of literature where the subject of immi emi and every sort of integration has been talked about so much, I am always a little weary of picking up a book which yet again comes back to the same American South Asian dichotomy Moreover, when a writer who has never really been to the home country chooses to write authentically about it, it usually ends up in being a parade of exoticized and over used situations of nostalgia read Jhumpa Lahiri s latest to know what I am talking about So, I had met Island of a Thousand Mirrors a number of times at various bookstores, somehow or the other the book snaking its way into my hands but I consciously had kept it back telling myself I have read similar books.However, it must be like those love stories where the hero and the beloved keep meeting till they realize the universe is conspiring to get them together In my case the universe was the people I work for who forced me into the same room with this book which refused to let go of me Thus, began my slow acquaintance with Island of a Thousand Mirrors Nayomi Munaweera and her novel Island of A Thousand Mirrors begins with the same noises that all novels of exile return begin at She wills to trace the history of two families, one Sinhala and one Tamil beginning at the moment of inception, quite akin to a Rushdie in Midnight s Children or a Marquez in A Hundred Years of Solitude However, unlike both these stalwarts, she quickly subsumes her narrative within the narrow space of the contradictory consciousness of two young girls, seeming to be the schizoid parts of a fragmented psyche Set against the war torn backdrop of picturesque Sri Lanka, Yasodhara and Saraswathi represent the two sides of the looking glass Just as in Lewis Carroll s Through the Looking Glass where everything has an inverted double, Yasodhara and Saraswathi s stories are the lateral inversions of each other Both of them are stranded into roles that they are forced to fulfill, one through exile and the other through war Caught within the grand rhetoric of Nationalism and belonging, home and exile the most beautiful lines in the novel encapsulate this as Arteries, streams, and then rivers of Tamils flow out of the city Behind them they leaveBelonging and Nationalism It is a list that stays bitter on the tongue, giving birth to fantasies of Retribution, Partition, Secession both the protagonists struggle to find a semblance of clarity within the spectral clear charts of their personal histories that had been drawn for them by others Both are fighting a war that was never hers, just like the thousands in the island who are sacrificed in the name of the greater cause, the Greater war.Munaweera represents the War in both its absence through the eyes of the American exiled Yasodhara and her family who listen to the news with bated breath and consume themselves in impotent rage and its presence through the breakdown of Saraswathi and her re creating herself, not quite wholly so, as a rebel fighter However, unlike other works on the War, there is no machismo, no grand truths, no clarion call of justice, honour or the most illusive of them, glory And most importantly it is not a masculine war Every turn of phrase or of event in the novel is guided by a female figure, let it be the matriarch Sylvia Sunethra who heroically saves her Tamil tenants when the mob comes to claim them or Mala who moulds her own story, ironically freed from the constraints of respectability because of her dark colour Even though both Yasodhara and Saraswathi are hued as the protagonists, it is these litany of women characters, from the hunchbacked Alice to the rebellious and beautiful Lanka to the shy Luxmi who create the myriad images on the silver backed landscape of these two main characters giving them both the depth and the reflective surfaces of their selves.It is an unapologetically female novel and there is a marked absence of refreshingly so prominent male characters, overturning the very common assumption of War novels being intrinsically male and women in these just play the part of spectators or worse as reduced to the roles of waiting in the proverbial interim room of reflected glory of their male counterparts The finale does leave you wanting for in its predictability and staccato nature, but then again life does have an uncanny way of ending with a whimper right When I met Nayomi during a seminar at my workplace and was talking to her about her book, she told me how difficult it was to get it published as most of the American publishers dished it saying a woman shouldn t write war novels well not in these exact words but in similar attitude at least I didn t understand the comment then But after reading her novel, I think I do Nayomi s novel doesn t talk of war as a moment etched in history, viewed through the comfortable lens of the common good It doesn t try and justify war as the means to an end or criticize it in a noble, scholastic sort of way Instead it tell you a story of recklessness, horror, misguided truths and hypocritical stances, it narrates to you the stories that everyone knows but nobody talks about, much like the spoiling of Saraswathi s friend It creeps into you in the dead of the night and takes you by force and while you writhe and try and free yourself of its sweat and grime, it opens you up, thrusts itself into you and breaks you, leaving the stink of its existence deep within you much longer after it had gone. I try to explain There are no martyrs here It is a war between equally corrupt forces.This is Sri Lanka during the Civil War 1983 2009 , but it could have been many countries, and the Tamils and Sinhalese could have been numerous ethnic groups This is a story as old as time, because we ve always been fighting each other, haven t we Young boys have always perished for causes they barely understand women have always been taken and broken In my arrogance I expected less from this pastel colored debut, and I was proven wonderfully wrong There s nothing fluffy about this novel it s brutal, beautiful and deeply affecting There s the heartbreak of first love lost, infidelity, marriage breakdown, miscarriage, terrorism, refugee isolation, and war, so much war There s an undercurrent of anger in Munaweera s narrative, a tired, fed up, plea for this cycle to end She tells the story from the perspective of two girls from opposing ethnic groups whose tragic fates will mirror each other, as will those thousand mirrors upon a thousand and unnamed people The sound of pure and absolute anguish breaking out from each of us who has paid a price to the demons of war A sound forged in the lungs of the mothers whose sons have died unnamed in the fields, the fathers whose daughters have gone to fight A sound to make the war makers quake and flee like the ancient demons, taking with them their weapons, their land mines, their silver tongued rhetoric, their nationalism, their martyrs, and sacred Buddhist doctrines, the whole pile of stinking bullshit. |DOWNLOAD EPUB ☩ Island of a Thousand Mirrors ♇ Island Of A Thousand Mirrors Follows The Fate Of Two Families, One Tamil, One Sinhala As They Straddle Opposite Sides Of The Long And Brutal Sri Lankan Civil War Narrated By The Eldest Daughter Of Each Family, The Story Explores How Each Woman Negotiates War, Migration, Love, Exile, And Belonging At Its Root, It S A Story Of A Fragmented Nation Struggling To Find Its Way To A New Beginning The adjectives brutal and beautiful aren t normally used together, but they describe this book Like others, I had no idea that Sri Lanka experienced a 25 year long civil war, killing over 80,000 people This book chronicles that war on the lives of two families It begins in the island before the war, with lovely descriptions of the people and their customs, their food, and the natural world that surrounded them It ends with the loss of not only families, but an entire way of life Yes, the beauty makes the brutality so much worse One of those books that is hard to read in parts I will never understand why people continue to hate each other so much. A powerful story told in a lyrical manner.Have read a couple of Sri Lankan authors before, and being from South India, With Sri Lanka close by, could not escape knowing about the civil war that has been ripping apart the country This is the first time I am reading the cultural and political history written in a simple and lucid manner I don t know who is in the right, who is in the wrong Often, it is both parties both ways But I do know that any civil war affects utmost the common person who is least interested in strife Leaving aside the political aspect, this story let me peek into the cultural and religious facets of ordinary Sri Lankan life I enjoyed the peek, but abhorred the violence and bloodshed This book narrates the lives of Singhalese as well as Tamilian families who were sacrificed in the wake of the civil war The strong female characters are bonus materials. Powerful, mesmerizing, searing these are words that come to mind having just put down this novel by first time author Nayomi Munaweera, which I received from Goodreads So glad I did, or else I might not ordinarily have come across it, which would definitely have been my loss An amazingly written masterpiece, the rhythm of the book eerily matches the drumbeat of Sri Lanka s civil war, which devastated the island nation from 1983 2009 pitting Sinhalese against Tamils and taking the lives of than 80,000 men, women and children The novel traces the lives of two young women and their families Yasodhara, a Sinhalese and Saraswathie, a Tamil Their lives play out very differently and culminate as paths collide in Sri Lanka s tragic, brutal war arena The novel is not for the faint of heart the realities of war are front and center, emotions are raw and raging, and brutalities graphic war is not pretty and the consequences are devastating But before all that, Sri Lanka is the land of both the Sinhalese and Tamils living side by side It s an island lush with tropical glories of ocean, flora, fauna, foods, culture and tradition captured magnificently One can almost feel, touch and experience the warm lap of ocean waters, the loamy feel of the land, the exotic aroma of bursting mangoes and the taste and texture of red rice and coconut fish curry Munaweera s writing is arresting, hauntingly captivating, tightly woven and highly effective Every single word has a reason for being on the page an amazing piece of literature It s no wonder then that the book received the Commonwealth Book Prize in 2013 A highly recommended read and one that leaves a lasting impression.