Sunday, 23 March 2014


In The Shadow of the Banyan Tree
Vaddy Ratner

There are books in this world that seem to demand to be read. They are the books that are easy to turn the page on, the one's you can't go to bed for and yet, sometimes, they make for terrible images that will leave a lasting impression, long after the last page is turned.

This stop on my tour of the world have taken me to Cambodia, in the mid '70's, and plunged me into a world, and part of history that I was only vaguely aware of. There is a little bit of me that has been left ashamed that it has taken this long to discover a piece of history of such magnitude, while all the time I was enjoying a glorious hot and sunny teenage life; where the biggest crisis was where the next pimple might appear on my face.

Written as a work of fiction - it clearly is not! As the author explains in her notes, literary licence has been exercised, but, fundamentally, an autobiographical account of the revolution in her country by the Khmer Rouge and her family's suffering at the hands of the new regime. The tale takes us away from their home, with all its comforts, into the rural farm life and enforced slave labour. We are swept along and become part of her family, bearing her losses with as much hurt and anger as she; no grief is allowed to be displayed, (it is an unnecessary emotion.) We share her hunger, despair, fear and loss, all borne with remarkable stoicism, what little surprise that she loses the will to voice her pains in the end.

But, it is also a story that speaks of people who cared for them, who tried to make their ordeal a little more bearable, and when they are added to the lovely descriptive views of the scenery that is Cambodia, then the works begins to become a little more uplifting, both in emotion and tone of the story. Her father, along with his oral stories, give us some wonderful philosophical views on humanity, life, death and remembrance.

It is hard to imagine that all of these events, spanning more than three years, didn’t scar the author for life, perhaps it did; perhaps writing the story serve to purge the nightmares. But perhaps the story was written as in homage to her father, and all he believed in. Whichever the reason, this book must serve as a reminder to us all what perverted power can do to a country, whatever the motives. This really is a ‘must read’.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a really interesting read and interesting idea for a blog. I'm always looking for good books to read so I shall enjoy following this ��