"Money was maliciously introduced in ancient times as a tool of enslavement" -
Michael Tellinger

"The present belongs to the future and future generations, and all old laws, religious and other, should be abrogated immediately. Free us!" - Vinay Gupta on Twitter

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." - R. Buckminster Fuller

"You find the strangest ways to be positive!" - Diane Duane, Wizards Abroad

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Cinnamon Gardens by Shyam Selvadurai (book review)

Really quick review... Here's a book I loved when I reviewed it for SLJ and then read again because I didn't want it to end - and found even more in it on the second reading. My best friend adored it too. This is one you can really get lost in - setting, characters, story... Where is my review copy now? No doubt I wanted to share it with someone. I must find another copy and read it again. Wonder if it's in audio format - it would make a great audiobook!

Cinnamon Gardens by Shyam Selvadurai (1999)

Colombo, Ceylon, in 1927 is a fragrant, lush, and beautiful city. For the Kandiah family - a mother and three young daughters living in a simple bungalow within the exclusive Cinnamon Gardens suburb - it is also politically complex, socially restricting, and heading irreversibly into an unknowable future.

The eldest daughter, Annalukshmi, wants to be a teacher, but according to the rules of her time and society, she must relinquish that work if she marries. Negotiating the often-illusory pathways of romantic hopefulness, she ultimately makes some surprisingly mature choices.

In counterpoint to Annalukshmi's story is that of her uncle; he loves his wife and his son but continues to struggle with his homosexuality and is thrown into crisis when his old lover arrives in Colombo.

Through these characters, and others, the many segments of this diverse colonial society come to life. We see how beliefs, values, and personality characteristics determine people's lives and actions - and how those values, though exercised with the best of intentions, can be completely at odds with those of others.

In his compassion for his characters, in the telling details of dress and architecture, in the dialogue that captures in a few words the essence of universal issues, Selvadurai shows the genius of a Jane Austen. Yet, with equal adroitness, he portrays the national and international, religious, political, historical, and cultural controversies of a much larger stage. Surrendering to the romanticism of Sri Lanka's past, the reader gains a new perspective on the present time and place.

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Here's another more recent review in a very readable blog I just found. It goes into more detail about the story in a way that wasn't possible with the SLJ review short form.

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