“Faultlessly elegant… Selvadurai is expert in capturing the nuances of this particularly precious time and place”

New York Times Book Review

About the book

Cinnamon Gardens book coverSet in 1920s’ Sri Lanka, during the turbulent closing days of colonial rule, Cinnamon Gardens takes the reader behind the fragrant gardens and polished surfaces of the elite who reside in a wealthy suburb of Cinnamon Gardens in Colombo to reveal a world of splintered families, conflicted passions, and lives destroyed by class hatred. The novel has 2 protagonists: Annalukshmi, a spirited young schoolteacher and early feminist, who finds herself caught between her family’s pressures to marry and her own desire for a more independent life. Then there is her uncle, Balendran, whose comfortable life of privilege is rocked by the arrival of Richard, a lover from his past in England. Their uneasy reunion re-ignites tensions with Balendran’s powerful father, and threatens everything on which Balendran has built his present life. The novel explores religious, political, historical, and cultural controversies of the time which laid the foundation for what ended up happening later in Sri Lanka. It also capture brilliantly the sadness, frustration and despair of married gay men—a phenomenon all too common in so many parts of the world.


McClelland and Stewart, Canada, 1998
Harcourt Brace, US, paperback, 2000
Anchor, UK, 1999; paperback 2000
Penguin India, 1998
il Saggiatore, Italy, 2001
Editions Robert Laffont, France, 2000
Verlag Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Germany, 2000
Goldmann Verlag, German paperback, 2002
Centrum, Denmark, 2001
Kinneret Publishing House, Israel, 2000
Ediciones Salamandra, Spain, 2005
Editorial Bizanco, Portugal, 2003
Citlembik, Turkey, 2005
Laguna, Serbia, 2006


Shortlisted for the Trillium Award, 1998
Shortlisted for the Premio Internazionale Riccardo Bacchelli (Italy), 1999
Shortlisted for the Aloa Literary Award (Denmark), 1999


“A near-miraculous capturing of life and love (both gay and straight), family tensions, political upheaval, labour unrest and feminism in the Ceylon of the 1920s…”
Edmonton Journal

“Faultlessly elegant… Selvadurai is expert in capturing the nuances of this particularly precious time and place.”
New York Times Book Review

“Subtle and deeply humane… Shyam Selvadurai has established himself firmly as an important chronicler of the complexities of social and cultural difference…”
— Books in Canada

“Selvadurai’s nuanced prose evokes the country’s dense climate and lush beauty.”
Toronto Star

“Richly rewarding… This is a novel that deserves, and will surely gain, a wide readership.”
Sunday Times (UK)

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