Book Cover of Chai Time At Cinnamon Gardens by Shankari Chandran

Chai Time At Cinnamon Gardens demands to be heard, in the beautiful way that literature can; by speaking to the heart.

Chai Time At Cinnamon Gardens Book Review

Reviewed by: Steph Huddleston

Author: Shankari Chandran

Genre: Fiction,

Publication Date: 5th of January 2022


Chai Time At Cinnamon Gardens is a beautifully interwoven tale of family and the ties that threaten to bond, or break, a community. Many people call the Cinnamon Gardens of Westgrove, Sydney ‘home’; from the elderly residents who have found comfort and rest in their remaining years, to the family which has transformed the place into a sanctuary over generations. There’s plenty of love and laughter in the place, and all are welcome.

The nursing home faces backlash from a community that would rather attack and isolate than encourage and acknowledge. When these forces threaten the residents’ safety, the characters must navigate a country divided.

What we Thought of Chai Time at Cinnamon Gardens

This book delves deep into themes of community, diversity and racism. With lyrical prose, from the perspective of multiple characters, the setting comes to life and brings with it amusing, and empowered characters.

This book challenges the widely accepted narratives communities around the globe to tell themselves about belonging, acceptance and nationalism. While there’s an emphasis on the Sri Lankan civil war and erasure of the Tamil identity and history throughout the story, the parallels to modern Australia are deeply relevant when considering Australia’s own relationship to its First Nations people.

‘Yes, we’re a tolerant society, as long as the model minority knows their place. We’re tolerant until the minority speaks out and criticises.’

Shankari Chandran

This book approaches these issues with nuance and emotional depth that is both confronting and engrossing.

‘I’m suggesting that violence should not be met with the silence of the oppressed.’

Shankari Chandran

This, I think is the natural time in this review to acknowledge my own inability as a white, cis-gendered woman to ever fully comprehend the experiences and violence many people face on both a macro and micro level in Australia and around the world.

Yet Chai Time At Cinnamon Gardens demands to be heard, in the beautiful way that literature can; by speaking to the heart. These characters, and this story, will stay with me. I highly recommend picking up a copy.

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