Island of a Thousand Mirrors by Nayomi Munaweera weaves the tale of two families navigating their way through the horrors of the conflict in Sri Lanka. Yasodhara tells the story of her Sinhala family living in Colombo. How social hierarchy dictates their lives and ambitions. Saraswathi, who is Timal, on the other hand lives further north in the war zone. She tells the story of her country life, her longing to become a teacher, and avoid notice of the Tiger soldiers. The lives of these two women are beautifully portrayed as they move through childhood to young adulthood. Their lives show the differences between the Sinhala and Timal people, while also showing the inexplicable brutality of two factions at war with one another.
Nayomi Munaweera’s writing is pure poetry. This novel and the rhythm of it will stay with the reader for days. She is able to paint pictures with words, using all of the senses to bring to life a world so far away. The reader is easily transported into the everyday experiences of the characters: eating coconuts and fish curries, swimming in the warm tropical waters of the island, smelling the heady scent of jasmine flowers. But she is also able to portray the darker side of the Sri Lankan history: the terror of war and unpredictable violence, the brainwashing of ideologies and racism, and the journey from unadulterated youth to soldier and martyr. This book is the perfect balance between light and dark, tragedy and hope, and the feeling left with the reader at the end of it all is a sense of awe and beauty, tinged with the perfect amount of sadness.
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