Chai Time at Cinnamon Gardens – Shankari Chandran

As you all know, this was the 2023 Miles Franklin winner. I listened to various people talking about it on the ABC (Book Shelf maybe?) and decided I should read it. I actually ended up listening to it (Audible had it for free for a while).

Here’s the blurb …

Welcome to Cinnamon Gardens, a home for those who are lost and the stories they treasure.

Cinnamon Gardens Nursing Home is nestled in the quiet suburb of Westgrove, Sydney – populated with residents with colourful histories, each with their own secrets, triumphs and failings. This is their safe place, an oasis of familiar delights – a beautiful garden, a busy kitchen and a bountiful recreation schedule.

But this ordinary neighbourhood is not without its prejudices. The serenity of Cinnamon Gardens is threatened by malignant forces more interested in what makes this refuge different rather than embracing the calm companionship that makes this place home to so many. As those who challenge the residents’ existence make their stand against the nursing home with devastating consequences, our characters are forced to reckon with a country divided.

Chai Time at Cinnamon Gardens is about family and memory, community and race, but is ultimately a love letter to story-telling and how our stories shape who we are.

I think the title and the cover are very misleading. From them, you expect a cozy story – maybe an elderly person is going to embark on an adventure! However, that’s not this book. There are some brutal depictions of torture and at times it is just sad. However, it is beautifully written and it a lovely, moving tribute to Sri-Lankan culture, in particular, Tamil culture. As a culture they value literacy, education and stories. It also highlights the plight of immigrants in Australia, how they are expected to be grateful. There are funny moments as well. All in all it was a lovely, enlightening read.

A review.

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