Cinnamon Gardens

Cinnamon Gardens

by Shyam Selvadurai


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Set among the upper classes in the gracious, repressive world of 1920s Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Cinnamon Gardens tells the brilliantly intertwined stories of two extraordinary characters.

Annalukshmi is a strong-willed young woman whose family is intent upon arranging a proper marriage for her, forcing her to question whether the independence she craves will doom her to a life without love and companionship. Her uncle Balendran, respectably married, struggles to suppress his secret desire for men. The sudden arrival of a former lover, however, threatens to destroy his carefully constructed world. Both Annalukshmi and Balendran must determine if it is possible to pursue personal happiness without compromising the happiness of others. And both must draw on hidden reserves to resist the pressures of society and, even more crushing, the expectations they have placed on themselves.

This masterfully plotted novel takes us beneath the polished veneer of fragrant gardens and manners to reveal a world of splintered families, forbidden emotions, and lives destroyed by prejudice. With its sensuous atmosphere, richly drawn characters, and astonishing ability to conjure time and place, Cinnamon Gardens is a riveting novel that speaks of the issues readers grapple with today, while evoking the great historical works of fiction they love.

Selvadurai's critically acclaimed first novel, Funny Boy, was hailed as "first rate fiction from a brilliant writer whose next book cannot arrive here quickly enough" (Kirkus Reviews). Now, Cinnamon Gardens—an unforgettable tale of history, family, love, and destiny—confirms Selvadurai's promise as one of the most distinctive and talented novelists from a new generation.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780786864737
Publisher: Hachette Books
Publication date: 07/14/1999
Pages: 368
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 13 - 18 Years

About the Author

Shyam Selvadurai was born in 1965 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He emigrated with his family to Canada at age nineteen in the wake of the 1983 riots. His first novel, Funny Boy, was awarded the Lambda Literary Award, was named a Notable Book by the American Library Association, and was published in seven countries. Selvadurai lives in Toronto, Canada.

Reading Group Guide

1. The opening lines of the novel tell us that the heroine, Annalukshmi, sees clearly "the sea of her desires, but the raft fate had given her was so burdened with the mores of the world that she felt it would sink even in the shallowest of waters." What exactly is this "sea of her desires?'' Through what historical events, actions the character takes, her dreams and ambitions, and other characters, does the writer show us our heroine's "sea of desires?"

2. Which characters in Annalukshmi's life represent and enforce the mores that threaten to sink her raft? There might be some obvious choices, but one is not so obvious. A hint. Look at Chapter 17. But it is not just the mores of the world that threaten to sink Annalukshmi's raft. There are her own personal failings, her inner stumblings. In which moments in the novel do they come out?

3. When Balendran, the hero of the novel, was a student in London, he met and fell in love with Richard Howland. When the novel opens, Balendran is in his forties and married. He now describes his homosexuality as "regrettably irreversable." He is grateful to his father for "saving him from such a fate." What are the consolations that Balendran offers himself, the supports he clings to, as a way of justifying his choice to lead the life of a married man. Trace the events and characters that question his choice, that slowly reveal the emptiness of his consolations.

4. Balendran is a deeply flawed but ultimately noble character. What are his flaws? How does he achieve nobility?

5. The arrival of the Donoughmore Commission at the beginning of the novel leads to two bids for freedom-self-rule and women's rights. While Selvaduraihas great sympathy for these causes, he is critical of the organizations that champion them. What are his criticisms of the Ceylon Congress Party and the Womens' Franchise Union? By exposing their weaknesses, what model of statehood is Selvadurai proposing for his country?

6. Selvadurai in his acknowledgments thanks his American editor "for pointing out that a historical novel can be a metaphor for the present.'' What advice does he offer at the end of the novel to a modern-day Annalukshmi? What pitfalls does he warn of?

7. Selvadurai is himself Gay, the novel is Gay-positive. In this light can Selvadurai really be suggesting at the end of the novel that Gay men should marry or continue on in passionless marriages? What exactly is his message to our modern age regarding the decision Balendran makes at the end of the novel?

8. It is clear by the end of the novel that neither our hero nor heroine can "have it all." What would be your choices in the same situations, which dreams would you be willing to sacrifice?

9. Cinnamon Gardens is very much a character-driven novel. Which character would you want to be and why? Which character(s) do you think is/are the saddest? Why?

Copyright (c) 2000. Published by Harcourt, Inc.

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Cinnamon Gardens 2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
From reading the description, you would think this book would be great. However, I couldn't make it past the first 50 pages without being bored. I didn't have any motivation to finish this book. Within those pages, there was nothing to catch the readers attention to want you to read more. This book may have the potential to be a great book, if you can make it past the first 50 pages.