Thursday, July 16, 2009

Preparatory reading,25197,25788938-5001986,00.html

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


In 1964 Indonesia was a riot. The country was experiencing a vast surge of upheaval. The charismatic leader and great orator, Sukarno, in a three hour speech called his people to action with the expression 'the year of living dangerously'.

This is the political climate in which Malaysian writer, Tash Aw's new novel is set. Adam and Johan are two orphans, adopted separately and into very different lifestyles. Johan, the elder of the two is taken away from Indonesia to Kuala Lumpur, in Malaysia, while Adam is adopted to the small island of Perdo, by a Dutch artist who feels himself to be more Indo than the Indos. The themes of home, cultural and personal identity are unravelled as the characters are revealed.

Adam's adopted father is arrested, falsely acused of being part of a commie plot, Adam travels across archipelagos of hundreds of islands and through thousands of people to (improbably) find an Margaret, an American anthropologist in Jakarta, knowing only her name. She then helps Adam search for his arrested father - and the story is plumped out with meetings with Sukarno, riots, violent demonstrations, discussions of love and aging (oh and more - but not for this snippet of review).

All in all, Tash Aw is a skilled writer - skilled with creating characters, skilled with conveying a knowledge of human emotions - he is a young writer - under forty with great insight into the machinations of many demographics - most effectively conveyed through the voice of Margaret.

This novel is character driven and good. It has plenty of action - I'd even recommend it to the Wilbur Smith wielding types -

Not life changing, though pleasant enough and a great priviledge to receive the insight into Indo politics of the day.

Paige Turner November

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