Today I’m excited to share my review for Chai Time at Cinnamon Gardens by Shankari Chandran. My love of tea drew me to the title and the beautiful cover made me want to read the story within. Scroll down to see if my high expectations were met.
Book Review: Chai Time at Cinnamon Gardens by Shankari Chandran
Title: Chai Time at Cinnamon Gardens
Author: Shankari Chandran
Publisher: Ultimo Press
Genre: Literary fiction, history
Release date: 2nd March 2023
Welcome to Cinnamon Gardens, a home for those who are lost and the stories they
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 storytelling and how our stories shape who we are.
The story behind the cover was a complete surprise but the beautifully written narrative and character driven plot captured me and I couldn’t put in down. I expected a cosy uplifting tale but while Maya the original owner of Cinnamon Gardens, a home for the elderly worked hard to create a safe place for all, this novel was an in depth study of generational relationships, loyalty, racism, past trauma and the entwined lives of the residents.
I loved the ethos of Cinnamon Gardens and the characters living there. The efforts and attention to detail to make the care home welcoming to everyone whatever their race, religion and background was inspiring and wished it existed in reality. Hopping from the present to the past, their often heart-breaking and traumatic backstories were revealed making me relate to them more and become immersed in their wellbeing when current events took a darker turn.
I knew nothing of the recent history of Sri Lanka and how the Tamils were treated so the stories of some residents and the reasons for their migration to Australia were eye opening. I felt guilty for being so oblivious to recent history. Racism and the demonisation immigration are currently rife in the media, so the storyline covering these and its dreadful consequences hit home. While set in Australia, the events could easily have happened in the UK and America. It highlights how what is seen as small acts by the perpetrators and enabling society can snowball when unchallenged and the damage it causes to those involved.
This unexpected, powerful and emotional novel, full of strong and memorable characters whose wisdom leaps of the page is one to read and reflect on. With its uncomfortable but important multi-layered plot there is much to be discussed and would make make an ideal book club read. It’s one of my favourite reads so far this year.
Shankari Chandran was raised in Canberra, Australia. She spent a decade in London, working as a lawyer in the social justice field. She eventually returned home to Australia, where she now lives with her husband, four children and their cavoodle puppy, Benji. In January 2017, she published her first book with Perera-Hussein, called Song of the Sun God. Her second book, The Barrier, was published in June 2017.
Thank you Random Things Tours for the blog invite and advanced copy of this book to so I could give an honest and unbiased review.