About the book:
Q. 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?"
Q. 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?
Q. 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.
Q. Balendran is a deeply flawed but ultimately noble character. What are his flaws? How does he achieve nobility?
Q. 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 Selvadurai has 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?
Q. 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?
Q. 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?
Q. 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?
Q. 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?