Short Book Review: Island of a Thousand Mirrors by Nayomi Munaweera

SBR: Island of a Thousand Mirrors follows the lives of its characters through Sri Lankan civil war. It is the kind of novel that you read to understand the war, not for its politics, but for the people it comes from and affects. The prose is beautiful, and a lot of research has been done before writing the book. Still it was painfully obvious to me that it has been written by someone who has watched things from afar.  The autobiographical protagonist is also, therefore, not in the middle of things and dealing more with her experience of immigration than with the war. The other protagonist who is in the war doesn’t feel as real. She is well researched. But that results in a beautiful portrait rather than a real young woman. She is also introduced a little too late. Overall, though, the book conveys its point. The reality and the futility of war and how there are no heroes and villains, no real winners.
To read or not to read: You can read at leisure. No need to move it to the top of your reading pile unless you are specifically reading books from/about Sri Lanka.

Short Book Review: A History of Sri Lanka by K. M. De Silva

SBR: The idea behind picking up a book on Sri Lankan history was to get a broad overview in preparation for our trip (since concluded), and not really research it to hell and beyond. Although I slogged through it, this wasn’t a book suitable for that purpose. Too much back and forth in chronology, too many details about land, taxes, bureaucracy and economic policy which was difficult to understand, and overall a difficult-to-follow narrative. Perhaps the book was meant for professional historians, and not for an unsuspecting layperson. That said, I did finish the book and got an idea of the nuances of Sri Lankan history.
To read or not to read: Not unless you are a professional historian. Find some other concise and readable book for a lay audience.