Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Cinnamon Gardens by Shaym Selvadurai

Enchanted by Selvadurai's latest move, I decided to pick up one of his older titles and was not disappointed.  This book is entirely set in British Ceylon and provides a good introduction to the historical roots of the conflicts in present-day Sri Lanka.  The characters are primarily upper class Ceylonese who are negotiating with the British - some want full independence, some partial.  Most tend to agree that universal franchise would not be appropriate though Annalukshmi, a young female teacher who bristles at her family's expectation that she will give up teaching to marry, does feel enfranchisement of educated women is appropriate.

We follow Annalukshmi through two unsuccessful matchmaking attempts and an equally unsuccessful match which she finds on her own.  The book also tells the story of her more traditional younger sister, through whom we see the pros and cons of agreeing to an arranged marriage.

The other central character in the book is Annalukshmi's uncle Balendran, a closeted gay who gave up a happy relationship with a British man once his father found out about it.  He has since married and had a son and we see the havoc that prevails when his former lover visits Sri Lanka.  We also learn of his brother Arul who was banished to India for marrying a lower caste woman.  Though on a visit to India, Balendran learns of his father's secrets which causes him to question his obedience to him.

All in all this is an interesting read filled with colourful characters.

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