In the Shadow of the Banyan

In the Shadow of the Banyan

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK (13 Sep 2012)
  • My Rating – 4 stars
  • Source - Amazon Vine

My knowledge of Cambodian history and the role of the Khmer Rouge is rather limited, based on viewing the excellent but harrowing film, The Killing Fields when I was 20. I relish the opportunity to discover the history and culture of other countries through fiction and In the Shadow of the Banyan has the added kudos of having an author who experienced these desperate times first-hand.

The author allows us to view the horrors of civil war up close but filters the more gruesome aspects by using a very young narrator, the seven year old Raami who has been swept from a life of privilege in an aristocratic family to the grass roots of a peasant existence. The language is so elegant and beautiful, very lyrical at times, allowing the reader to see the beauty and grace of the humans at the centre of this dreadful war. Ironically it is the exquisite nature of the prose which causes this to be a good but not great read for me as I just can’t get past the fact that the narrator is only 7 years old yet capable of such eloquence. Maybe it’s because I have young children myself but it seems incongruous for such a young child to express herself in such a consistently lyrical manner.

Having said that, it is an extremely moving read and a very good introduction to the troubled history of a country which, in my opinion, has been rather overlooked by the world of literature.

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  1. This was a really moving book, wasn’t it? I was just about OK with Raami’s age – I’ve taught seven year olds and there are a few that could have that perspective, especially if forced to grow up quickly by horrible circumstances. Not many, granted, but definitely a few.

  2. Teresa says:

    It was very good, Sam but for me, at times the language seemed too sophisticated for a 7 year old. I’d love to read more novels on this era.

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