Talking Location With author Leigh Russell – YORK
Five great books set in MYANMAR (BURMA)
15th August 2020
Myanmar (Burma) is the latest place for us to visit in our ‘Great books set in…’ series. Five great books set in MYANMAR (BURMA).
‘Khote yar ta char, sha yar ta lwe’ – Myanmar proverb, meaning ‘you aimed to chop, but cut the wrong bit off.’ Even though we may do things with the right mindset, we can never be sure of the outcome. This applies to both good and bad outcomes, where the result is always surprising in some way.
Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins
Chiko isn’t a fighter by nature. He’s a book-smart Burmese boy whose father, a doctor, is in prison for resisting the government. When Chiko is forced into the army by trickery, he must find the courage to survive the mental and physical punishment meted out by the training facility’s menacing captain.
Tu Reh can’t forget the image of the Burmese soldiers burning his home and the bamboo fields of his oppressed Karenni people, one of the many ethnic minorities in Burma. Now living in a Karenni refugee camp on the Thai border, Tu Reh is consumed by anger and the need for revenge. He can’t wait to join his father and the Karenni resistance in the effort to protect their people.
Chiko and Tu Reh’s stories come to a violent intersection as each boy is sent on his first mission into the jungle. Extreme circumstances and unlikely friendships force each boy to confront what it means to be a man of his people.
Set against the political and military backdrop of modern-day Burma, Bamboo People explores the power of courage and compassion to overcome violence and prejudice.
The Road to Rangoon by Lucy Cruickshanks
In 1980s Burma, the British ambassador’s son goes missing.
Discovered in the north of the country, Michael Atwood is in imminent danger, trapped between sides fighting a bitter civil war and with no way of getting back to Rangoon. His best hope of salvation is to trust Thuza, a ruby smuggler who offers to help him escape.
Beautiful and deeply scarred, Thuza has spent her entire life in a frontier town between rebel and government forces, never choosing a side but trying to make a living from both. For Thuza, the ambassador’s son is her ticket out of poverty. For Than, an ambitious military officer, exploiting those caught up in the war offers an opportunity for promotion and distinction.
But as all three learn to their cost, in this exotic, enigmatic and savage country, everyone has a price.
This is a tale of ambition, salvation and hope that confirms Lucy Cruickshanks as a master storyteller.
Burmese Days by George Orwell
Based on his experiences as a policeman in Burma, George Orwell’s first novel presents a devastating picture of British colonial rule. It describes corruption and imperial bigotry in a society where, ‘after all, natives were natives – interesting, no doubt, but finally … an inferior people’. When Flory, a white timber merchant, befriends Indian Dr Veraswami, he defies this orthodoxy. The doctor is in danger: U Po Kyin, a corrupt magistrate, is plotting his downfall. The only thing that can save him is membership of the all-white Club, and Flory can help. Flory’s life is changed further by the arrival of beautiful Elizabeth Lackersteen from Paris, who offers an escape from loneliness and the ‘lie’ of colonial life.
Elephant Moon by John Sweeney
As the Second World War rages, the Japanese Imperial Army enters Burma and the British rulers prepare to flee. But the human legacy of the British Empire will be left behind in the shape of sixty-two Anglo-Burmese children, born to local women after affairs with foreign men. Half-castes, they are not acknowledged by either side and they are to be abandoned with no one to protect them.
Their teacher, Grace Collins, a young Englishwoman, refuses to join the European evacuation and instead sets out to deliver the orphans to the safety of India. She faces impossible odds because between her and India lie one thousand miles of jungle, mountains, rivers and the constant, unseen threat of the Japanese. With Japanese soldiers chasing them down, the group s chances of survival shrink – until they come across a herd of fifty-three elephants who, with their awesome strength and kindness, quickly become the orphans only hope of survival.
Based on a true story, Elephant Moon is an unforgettable epic tale of courage and compassion in the midst of brutality and destruction.
Smile as They Bow by Nu Nu Yi
Several of Nu Nu Yi’s characters attend the annual Taungbyon Festival in honour of the spirits known as nats, which are central to traditional Burmese religious practice. There is Daisy Bond, a gay, transvestite medium in his fifties, his young assistant named Min Min who he has fallen in love with, and a beautiful beggar girl who threatens to steal Min Min’s heart. As they make their way through a week of ritual celebrations and spirit-channeling, each must face difficult choices and make difficult decisions.
Return to Mandalay by Rosanna Ley
Eva Gatsby has often wondered about her grandfather Lawrence’s past, and exactly what happened to him in Burma during the Second World War. But it is only when Eva’s job as an antiques dealer suddenly requires a trip to Mandalay that Lawrence finally breaks his silence and asks her to return a mysterious artefact of his own – a chinthe – to its rightful owner.
As Eva arrives in Burma her mission soon proves dangerously complicated, and the treasure she is guarding becomes the centre of a scandal that will have far-reaching consequences. Caught between loyalty and integrity, Eva is determined to find the truth about her grandfather’s past, of her own family origins, and of the red-eyed chinthe itself – enigmatic symbol of the riches of Mandalay.
For our full collection of books set in Myanmar (Burma), just access the TripFiction database
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