2020 Nov 5
“There is a certain new ferocity in her eyes now. A certain new thing that was not there before. I recognize it as scar tissue. When a bone breaks, it heals stronger in the cracks. I realize this is what is happening to her heart.”
With its strong narrative and beautifully descriptive writing, Island of a Thousand Mirrors tells the story of Yasodhara and Saraswathie, two women on the two sides of the destructive Sri Lankan Civil War. The tale showcases a contrast in the two points of views of the young women but also offers a glimpse into the past before peace was shattered by the 30-year-long battle.
Nayomi Munaweera excels at capturing the beauty of Sri Lanka through her words but also manages to shock the reader with the introduction of rage and blood as the civil war evolves from subtle differences between the Sinhalese and Tamil cultures to a full blown bloody massacre.
Yasodhara’s side of the story speaks of an idyllic childhood in Colombo, social hierarchies and how they affect their lives and young love affairs. After witnessing the horrors of the war, they move to Los Angeles where the narrative shifts to the lives of two young women thrust into the unfamiliarity of another land, trying to adjust to their new surroundings, while the horrors of the war still linger in the back of their heads.
“If we are to survive watching this war from a distance, as spectators, we do not have the privilege of indignation or anxiety”
The reader is then introduced to Saraswathie, a simple Tamil village girl with humble dreams of becoming a school teacher, living in war-torn Jaffna. Introduced a little too late in the novel, her narrative is rushed but descriptive, depicting the rapid metamorphosis from a young, innocent girl to a ruthless woman craving bloodshed. A horrific ordeal results in her being shunned by family and society, the end of it also portraying the end of her innocence. She dies a metaphorical death and is reborn, her journey as a Tamil Tiger eventually colliding with the lives of Yasodhara and her younger sister La.
The contrast between the two families, one haunted by the horrors taking place in their homeland and the other who is forced to live through the very worst of it, is what makes this novel so powerfully captivating. The female perspective that Nayomi Munaweera employs in her novels allows for a myriad of feelings to be portrayed through her words, the same of which is evident in her debut novel “What Lies Between Us”.
Island of a Thousand Mirrors is one heartbreakingly enjoyable read that plunges the reader into the destructive civil war through its emotion-ridden pages.