Book Review: Island of a Thousand Mirrors

13 Sep

I went in with my eyes wide open, knowing the subject would be dark, unaware of the treatment of it by this woman with a dazzling smile who asked me to review it within an hour of meeting her. Growing up in India, some latitudes north of the Sri Lankan civil war, meant it had remotely touched me as a child and teenager through political rhetoric, waves of radiated human anguish and the assassination of a Prime Minister, but beyond that, I was a clean slate.

What I was unprepared for, was how much Nayomi Munaweera’s labor of love would demand from me as a human bystander, make me invest in the lives of its characters and their teardrop-shaped country, draw me in and make me stay, in spite of the savagery around me. There are novels you breeze through, nod “Good read”, and move on. Pick up Island of a Thousand Mirrors only if you’re willing to carry it within you for life.

Crafted in present tense and delightfully crisp sentences, one is busy falling in love with the emerald isle and the language used to sketch it, pretending nothing untoward will ever happen on this idyll where Munaweera’s father grew up. But that is the curse of history and hindsight: we’re forced to look back over our shoulder and bear witness to its horrors.

In the creation of drama, several authors rely on words of deafening thunder and grandiose landscapes of pain. Nayomi Munaweera makes you do the work, as her sentences play supporting roles in a beguilingly simple manner: her descriptors exquisitely gut-wrenching, her voice matter-of-fact, she draws out your blood, your angst, your despair at being human, like a literary shaman.

This searing debut, so beautiful it hurts, is pyrotechnics and poetry.  Award-worthy, absolutely, but ultimately, so deeply enriching that you’ll be infinitely poorer for giving it a miss.

Island of a Thousand Mirrors, published by Perera Hussein, releases on September 15th, 2012.

6 Responses to “Book Review: Island of a Thousand Mirrors”

  1. sukanya September 17, 2012 at 6:06 am #

    Thanks OJ for the reco. I read an excerpt and a short story of the author – beautiful writing!

  2. Orange Jammies September 17, 2012 at 1:21 pm #

    sukanya: Isn’t it? She has an exquisite, unique voice in this age of everybody and their grandfather publishing.

  3. Anamika/Thinking Cramps September 17, 2012 at 10:28 pm #

    Can’t wait to read it. Just checked and I don’t think it’s available in India yet. But I will look out for it.

  4. Orange Jammies September 18, 2012 at 10:42 am #

    Anamika: Let me find out and get back to you.

  5. Aunty G. September 19, 2012 at 9:54 pm #

    Oh dear, there’s so much catching up to do
    Thank goodness for each and every review
    ‘Tween newspapers and Net
    My ways are pretty set
    Shall read my fiction vicariously through generous you!

  6. Orange Jammies October 1, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

    Aunty G: Then you won’t be doing much reading, because I hardly read fiction. 😉

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