Talking Location With author Daniella Bernett – MALTA
Five great books set in CAMBODIA
22nd August 2020
Cambodia is the latest region for us to visit in our ‘Great books set in…’ series. Five great books set in CAMBODIA
‘Negotiate a river by following its bends, enter a country by following its customs’ – Cambodian proverb
In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner
For seven-year-old Raami, the shattering end of childhood begins with the footsteps of her father returning home in the early dawn hours bringing details of the civil war that has overwhelmed the streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. Soon the family’s world of carefully guarded royal privilege is swept up in the chaos of revolution and forced exodus.
Over the next four years, as she endures the deaths of family members, starvation, and brutal forced labour, Raami clings to the only remaining vestige of childhood – the mythical legends and poems told to her by her father. In a climate of systematic violence where memory is sickness and justification for execution, Raami fights for her improbable survival.
Displaying the author’s extraordinary gift for language, In the Shadow of the Banyan is testament to the transcendent power of narrative and a brilliantly wrought tale of human resilience.
When Broken Glass Floats: Growing Up Under the Khmer Rouge by Chanrithy Him
In the Cambodian proverb, “when broken glass floats” is the time when evil triumphs over good. That time began in 1975, when the Khmer Rouge took power in Cambodia and the Him family began their trek through the hell of the “killing fields.” In a mesmerizing story,
Him vividly recounts a Cambodia where rudimentary labor camps are the norm and technology, such as cars and electricity, no longer exists. Death becomes a companion at the camps, along with illness. Yet through the terror, Chanrithy’s family remains loyal to one another despite the Khmer Rouge’s demand of loyalty only to itself. Moments of inexpressible sacrifice and love lead them to bring what little food they have to the others, even at the risk of their own lives.
In 1979, “broken glass” finally sinks. From a family of twelve, only five of the Him children survive. Sponsored by an uncle in Oregon, they begin their new lives in a land that promises welcome to those starved of freedom.
Death in the Rainy Season by Anna Jaquiery
Phnom Penh, Cambodia; the rainy season. When a French man, Hugo Quercy, is found brutally murdered, Commandant Serge Morel finds his holiday drawn to an abrupt halt. Quercy – dynamic, well-connected – was the magnetic head of a humanitarian organisation which looked after the area’s neglected youth.
Opening his investigation, the Parisian detective soon finds himself buried in one of his most challenging cases yet. Morel must navigate this complex and politically sensitive crime in a country with few forensic resources, and armed with little more than a series of perplexing questions: what was Quercy doing in a hotel room under a false name? What is the significance of his recent investigations into land grabs in the area? And who could have broken into his home the night of the murder?
Becoming increasingly drawn into Quercy’s circle of family and friends – his adoring widow, his devoted friends and bereft colleagues – Commandant Morel will soon discover that in this lush land of great beauty and immense darkness, nothing is quite as it seems . . .
A deeply atmospheric crime novel that bristles with truth and deception, secrets and lies: Death in the Rainy Season is a compelling mystery that unravels an exquisitely wrought human tragedy.
A Woman of Angkor by John Burgess
Pure and beautiful, she glows like the moon behind clouds.
The time is the 12th Century, the place Cambodia, birthplace of the lost Angkor civilisation. In a village behind a towering stone temple lives a young woman named Sray, whom neighbours liken to the heroine of a Hindu epic. Hiding a dangerous secret, she is content with quiet obscurity, but one rainy season afternoon is called to a life of prominence in the royal court. There her faith and loyalties are tested by attentions from the great king Suryavarman II. Struggling to keep her devotion is her husband Nol, palace confidante and master of the silk parasols that were symbols of the monarch’s rank.
This lovingly crafted first novel by former ‘Washington Post’ correspondent John Burgess revives the rites and rhythms of the ancient culture that built the temples of Angkor, then abandoned them to the jungle. In telling her tale, Sray takes the reader to a hilltop monastery, a concubine pavilion and across the seas to the throne room of imperial China. She witnesses the construction of the largest of the temples, Angkor Wat, and offers an explanation for its greatest mystery – why it broke with centuries of tradition to face west instead of east.
Spice by Robert A. Webster
This thrilling unpredictable, yet sometimes hilarious quest will have you mesmerised.
Ben Bakewell, the master pâtissier at one of London’s leading restaurants, befriends Ravuth, a refugee from the killing fields of Cambodia who fled to England as the Khmer Rouge ravished his country. As a youngster in Cambodia, Ravuth stumbled across an unknown plant, the source of an incredible and unique spice.
Separated from his family by the Khmer Rouge, Ravuth, having spent the majority of his life trying to trace them, goes to Cambodia with Ben to seek the rare plant, and find his missing family members.
Teaming up with a disgraced ex DEA agent bent on revenge, they furrow into the deepest parts of the Cardamom jungle where they barely come out alive.
Andrew for the TripFiction Team
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