Reader, Writer, Reviewer

In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner

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Published by Simon & Schuster, August ****

Ratner effectively shares her own experience during the Communist Revolution in Cambodia in the 1970’s through this novel, using the character of Raami to reflect her own memories.  This offers a unique perspective through the innocent eyes of a child who doesn’t understand what’s happening – she can only observe the chaos and adult conversations of a situation that is beyond her comprehension.  Though she doesn’t directly witness extreme amounts of violence aside from a few deaths, the end demonstrates the aftermath of the ravaged landscape.  There is a palpable sense of loss throughout, and Raami’s narrative often relies on Buddhist and Cambodian mythology to help her indentify with her circumstances.

Ignorant soldiers spew Communist rhetoric and the constant threat of starvation, extreme work, and execution is always present, especially for Raami and her royal family.   Despite the hardships, Raami finds beauty in the world around her and inspiration from the words of her poet father.  Ratner succeeds in painting a terrifying landscape and a gorgeous country.  The characters were well-written, but I never felt a personal connection with them.  Perhaps it was because Ratner was referencing her unreliable memories as a young child, or wanted to keep a little distance from her traumatic experiences, but I felt there was a subtle something lacking.  Having not known a single thing about the Cambodian revolution, this offers a nice glimpse at the ruin it created.  I guess I was expecting more emotional tragedy and brutality.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.

Stay tuned, dear readers, I will be offering a copy of this book for giveaway in the coming week or so…

Author: Julie Merilatt

I live in a Chicago suburb with my husband and a house full of books. Book collecting, reading, and reviewing consume my life. I have a special affinity for all things Alice in Wonderland. I began my education at Carthage College, wanting to be an English teacher. Eventually I decided that Carthage and I weren’t a good fit anymore, so I transferred to North Park University, where I realized I didn’t want to be a teacher. So I finished my education with a degree in English with a writing concentration. I was always a voracious reader and wrote my first review in April 2007. I don’t remember why exactly I decided to write a review, only that I had just finished The Agony and the Ecstasy and had a strong feeling that I needed to express how I felt about it. This inspired me to write reviews about each book I wrote and after posting on Amazon for two years, I was invited into the Amazon Vine program. I am also an active reviewer/member of Goodreads and enjoy being an active member of the online book community.

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