In Sri Lanka we believe in karma and the way Nayomi Munaweera’s stunning debut novel, Island of a Thousand Mirrors, came to me has to be karma.
At a party, a friend of mine casually tells me that she has just discovered a childhood friend over Facebook, who has written a book and is dejected because publishers and agents in America hadn’t shown interest. Would I have a look? This is a question that is asked from me from tens of people and I have only one answer – Yes! For even I know that the diamond lies beneath the coal.
Soon enough, two immensely fat manuscripts land on my desk and as I spend my weekends on my coconut farm on the North West coast of Sri Lanka, they accompanied me as my weekend reading. On a hot Saturday afternoon lying in bed, I began to read: By the twentieth page, I knew in my gut this was a special book, by the thirtieth page, I knew I was going to do this book, by the fiftieth page, I put the book down, ran out into the verandah where my husband and publishing partner was snoozing and shouted out: ‘We are doing this book! This is the book!”
So, what was it about this book that got me so enthusiastic? Frankly, it was everything. Nayomi’s language pulls you in and doesn’t let you out. It holds you close to the heart of the book. Her imagery, manages to evoke innocence, love, family, hatred, betrayal, and a country’s heart ache so well, that you are left, long after you read the book, with a story that never leaves you. And finally, the story, was one that is the story of many people, the story of perhaps even many countries, and the story of what the world is going through in many parts. Yes, a story of sadness and heartache, but also a story of love beyond borders, of hope and change.
Island of a Thousand Mirrors went on to be long-listed and short-listed for many international prizes, it won the Commonwealth Prize for Best Book from the Asia Region, is taught in schools and universities and it is a Book Club favourite. But even without all that, without the hoop-la, without the hype, Island of a Thousand Mirrors, in the end is a story you will want to read. It is a human story and truly, that is what matters. I am sure when you read it, you will agree.
Perera Hussein Publishing House