Saturday 8 September 2012

Review ~ In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner

My Thanks to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for a copy of this book to review

In the Shadow of the Banyan
Simon and Schuster
August 7 2012

Raami is a seven year old when the civil war which has overwhelmed the streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, infiltrates into her safe family life, and her aristocratic world falls apart. As her family struggle to stay together in a world gone mad, Raami is forced to witness to some of the worst atrocities and hardship. For the most part Raami’s narrative is quite unemotional, which somehow makes the violence and slaughter even harder to bear, and yet there is an undeniable lyricism as she describes what is happening to those around her.
Based on Vaddey Ratners own life, this is not an easy book to read, and I can’t say I enjoyed it, but what I can acknowledge is the author’s undeniable skill in exposing a life made raw by violence and despair ,and yet revealing the magic that comes from poetry and legend.
I didn’t know much about this troubled period in Cambodia’s history, and though I have some recollection of the Khmer Rouge as perpetrators of great wrongdoing, I was quite simply unprepared for the emotional effect that this story would have on me. Horrific in places, and overwhelmingly sad, this story takes some telling, and yet, in places, the writing is so beautiful, that for a brief moment the horror is overshadowed, and the resilience  of the human spirit shines brightly.

......"There was a mother..." Her voice was small, like the rustle of a leaf in an immense forest. "She loved her daughter so much that she'd give the child whatever the girl desired. One night while they were playing in the garden, the little daughter saw the full moon and wanted it. The mother tried to explain that the moon belongs up there. You can't just pluck it from the sky like you would a fruit from a tree. But like any small child, the girl didn't understand the moon isn't something you possess. She cried and cried. So what could the mother do but give her daughter the moon? She brought a bucket of water, and pointing to the reflection, said, 'Here's your moon, my love.' The little girl, delighted, plunged her arms into the bucket, and for hours she played with her moon, watching it dance and swirl....."

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