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Cinnamon Gardens Hardcover – July 14, 1999

4.1 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Business Information.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

YA-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. Readers 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. Thoughtful teens can lose themselves in the romanticism of Sri Lanka's past and possibly gain a new understanding of their own time and place.
Christine C. Menefee, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Hachette Books; 1st edition (July 14, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786864737
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786864737
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,451,847 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on June 9, 2002
Format: Paperback
I became interested in Shyam Selvadurai's novels after he came to read at my high school a little while ago. He read from "Funny Boy", and I got so intrigued I went right to the library to pick it up. I had it read in three days. About a month and a half later, I picked up "Cinnamon Gardens"
Selvadurai's novels both deal with Sri Lanka (Ceylon during the 20s), politics, and the social constraints of Asian society. I've read a lot of books, but for some reason, Selvadurai's strike me as the most honest.
It's so refreshing to read a novel in which nobody is simply "Good" or "Bad". The people are real, rounded characters with dreams and fears, desires and regrets. The prose is written in the third person but there is none of the tiresome self-absorbed banter that often plagues novels about serious issues such as homosexuality, self-government, and women's rights. Reading Selvadurai's prose, you feel as though you are experiencing events, not being told that they are occurring.

I actually found "Cinnamon Gardens" more enjoyable than "Funny Boy" if only because it was a continuous novel, allowing for more character development than the six short stories in "Funny Boy". Somehow, with his plain style, Selvadurai made the characters real. I found myself sympathizing with them right from the very beginning.
It's too bad the book was double spaced and in large font, because I could have read a thousand pages of this novel and still felt like it was too short.
I can't wait until Mr. Selvadurai's next novel is finished. He told us it would be set in Toronto, which promises a very interesting perspective.
A real achievement.
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Format: Hardcover
After reading 'Funny Boy', I was eagerly awaiting Selvadurai's second offering. It is a very well written novel contrary to the reviews I had read. Selvadurai truly has the talent of a good writer. I picked up Funny Boy out of curiosity and events in my personal life and was hooked at his way of narrating a story. The characters of Annulakshmi and Balendran captivated me as much as that of Radha Aunty and Arjie in Funny Boy. I don't if it is just me, but I seemed to have noticed that Selvadurai has a way of emphasing the relationship between the main characters in an Aunt-Nephew role(Radha Aunty-Arjie) or Uncle-Niece role(Balendran-Annulaksmi). The first half of the book dealt with a little too much history, but I think that was necessary to establish the mood of the period. I really liked the way the book ended, however the romantic in me would have preferred a different ending for Annulakshmi's character. All in all, it is a must read. And here's hoping that Selvadurai continues to enthrall readers.
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Format: Hardcover
For some reason I expected this to be a dense, literary sort of book, which it is not. In fact it is light historical fiction, an easy and quick read that should appeal to the popular imagination; I'm surprised it's as little-known as it is.

In 1920s Sri Lanka (then known as Ceylon), Annalukshmi is a young teacher, more interested in career advancement than finding a suitable husband, to the chagrin of the upper-class society to which she belongs. Her uncle, Balendran, appears to be a respectable middle-aged husband and diligent son, but is secretly gay. The plot involves the reappearance of Balendran's long-lost lover and Annalukshmi's family's attempts to marry her off.

Selvadurai is a good storyteller: this is an entertaining book with sympathetic characters, and I read it fairly quickly. It is on the fluffy side though; the characterization is not especially deep, nor is there anything particularly fresh in its standard "forbidden love" and "independent woman wants more from life than her society offers" plotlines. Sure, there aren't many books out there by and about gay South Asian men, but Balendran's plot still reads like a standard "forbidden love" story; little would have changed had he been in love instead with a woman other than his wife. Even his conservative father seems more upset by Balendran's brother's choice of a lower-class wife than with Balendran's sexuality.

SPOILERS

In fact, the one unusual element of this book is the ending; instead of culminating in "love conquers all!", it leaves both protagonists precisely where they began.
Read more ›
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By A Customer on June 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
I loved reading this book. The characters are likable - the setting is interesting - the tension is just perfect. I agree with The Advocate review: An old-fashioned page turner with a literary heart . . . . melodrama that does not ignore the mind." Thank you Mr. Shyam Selvadurai!
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By A Customer on February 8, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is such a lovely book, evocative of another time and place which is beautiful and scented, that you might miss its real substance! This would make a wonderful Merchant-Ivory film or Masterpiece Theatre. It's full of modern concerns which are actually timeless. The writing is beautiful and serves the great diversity of characers well. They come from all strata of society, mixing up caste and religions and nationalities in a very believable way. The characters strive to make choices which are true to themselves yet sometimes work against those of others - again, in a very believable and touching way. I really loved this book and its many-faceted people, and would give it five stars in any company.
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