Book Review: Island of a Thousand Mirrors

Hello friends!  I have so much to write about and tell you about!  It makes me feel pretty bad that I’m so behind in keeping you all updated, but alas, life is busy and until I’m a full-time adventure travel writer, it is what it is.

In an effort to maintain communication, I decided I would start posting book reviews of my favorite travel books.  These books can vary in terms of style, ranging from personal narratives of those who left everything behind to undertake an epic journey of some sorts, to fiction stories that describe real places, and even real events, through the eyes of a made-up character.

Reading is one of my favorite pastimes.  I love to read almost as much as I love to travel.  Because it is not realistic for me to always be traveling, I have taken to travel writing (as in reading traveling writing- I’m still working on doing the writing part myself) so that I can ‘travel’ even when at home.  By posting my book reviews and thoughts, I am combining my interests of 1. travel 2. reading 3. writing and hoping to share all of those interests with you.  Every book I write about will be one I have read, and if you ever at any point would like to borrow it to read yourself, I will be more than happy to send it along!  I’ll start with the most recent book I finished and try to post at least one review per month!

 

Island of a Thousand Mirrors

Nayomi Munaweera

 

First published in 2012, this book is a fictional account of the very real Sri Lankan civil war that took place from 1983-2009.  The story follows the lives of two different girls, one Sinhala and one Tamil, whose people are fighting one another in the brutal war.  As insiders into the lives of both, we are able to see them grow up and struggle to hang onto their dreams of a normal life outside of the war.  Fighting to survive, they adapt to the demands the war has placed on their families, pulling them around the world, and eventually propelling them back towards each other in a dramatic twist of fate.

I had my eye on this book for a little over a year, seeing it at various bookstores and always making note to write it down or take a picture so I wouldn’t forget that I wanted to read it.  I finally received a copy of the book from a friend who had read it and was ready to pass it on.  As many times as I had noticed the book in the store, I somehow missed the fact that this book is about Sri Lanka, a place near and dear to my heart.  Munaweera is an incredibly descriptive writer and reading about Mount Lavinia, Colombo, and other beautiful Lanka sites took me right back to the Sri Lankan countryside, feeling the wind drive across the rice paddies, or crouching near a kitchen fireplace and smelling the smoke from the woodfire cooking the roti as neighbors crack coconuts outside.

This book may inspire wanderlust a little differently for everyone, and maybe not for everyone.  It allowed me to recall my experiences and thoughts while traveling through the country, and certain details registered with me because I had gone through them first hand.  For those who have never been to Sri Lanka- do not let this book deter you.  The civil war is over, although I can’t say the same for ethnic group tensions (as those seem to be prevalent everywhere).

Having gained independence from Great Britain in 1948, many British traditions can be found on the island.  Sri Lanka has a rich and vast history that runs deep into the various ethnic groups and can be seen today scattered through religious, political, and social customs.  From architecture to agriculture, clothing to cooking, there is a flavor that perfectly blends the influence of Indian and British communities while preserving and maintaining its own cultural practices.

I recommend this book for its amazing story-telling, unbelievable (yet not over-the-top) descriptiveness, and ability to bring a recent and important, yet hardly talked about, part of history to our bookshelves.

 

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