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Highways to a War Paperback – June 1, 1996


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Highways to a War + The Year of Living Dangerously
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Australian war photographer Mike Langford has just disappeared inside Cambodia as this intriguing novel opens in 1976. That country has been closed to all foreigners since the Khmer Rouge takeover, however, so when Langford doesn't emerge the general presumption is that he has been killed or taken prisoner. When the narrator, a boyhood friend, receives Langford's diary-on-tape, spanning 1965-1975, it sets off a series of reminiscences that offer indelible insights into the mind and heart of a remarkable individual who would dare infiltrate Communist Kampuchea against all odds. Readers will be touched by Langford's experiences in Indonesia (the setting of Koch's 1979 novel, The Year of Living Dangerously), Vietnam, and Cambodia. Highly recommended.
Will Hepfer, SUNY at Buffalo Libs.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 469 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (June 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140247572
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140247572
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.1 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,140,245 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By hugh riminton on February 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a big book, lumbering in structure, almost Victorian in the way it mucks about before settling into the yarn - but it winds up rich and troubling and moving and difficult to forget. Rather too obviously based on the life of famed war cameraman Neil Davis, it follows its hero from sylvan days in the hopfields of Tasmania to the warzones of Vietnam and Cambodia. The evocations of scented Asia, the journo/GI milieu, the chaos of battle are extremely strong.
Over time the hero's naive idealism is forged into - um, experienced idealism, as he comes to identify with the Cambodian people in particular. His ultimate fate is almost operatic in its awfulness.
The French have a word - sillage - which means the ineffable scent left in the air by a woman's passing. This book leaves a sillage. It is the gentle wash of sadness of the old survivors of those horrible South-East Asian wars, as they calculate the prices paid, and wonder at their meaning.
I recommend this book. It is like an old-fashioned Sunday roast - not necessarily the meal you'd choose, but richly satisfying at the end.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A. Williams on November 29, 2007
Format: Paperback
Christopher Koch writes about recent history in a way no other writer has done. He frequently is compared to Graham Greene, because they both write about espionage and moral confusion in exotic locales and because they both create unforgettable characters, but Koch approaches novel-writing from a different point of view. Both write beautiful, poetic prose. Koch, who rejects many contemporary literary vogues, nevertheless shows more interest in the structure of the novel than Greene. Greene was a troubled Catholic; Koch is a former Catholic, and either in spite or because of this, has a more clearly developed moral perspective. He uses it to lead his readers into one of the most ghastly moral cul de sacs of the 20th century, the triumph of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. His hero, Mike Langford, his greatest character, even greater than Billy Kwan in The Year of Living Dangerously, is a Christlike figure -- literally, as is revealed in the tremendous conclusion to this wonderful book. More fashionable Australian writers, like the former advertising copywriter, Peter Carey, have been more adept at selling their work than Koch, but his books will be the ones that endure. Koch originally conceived Highways as a longer work, which would have included the story of Mike Langford's ancestor. The other half was later published as Out of Ireland. The first 40 or 50 pages of Highways provides a bridge between the two novels, which might be confusing to readers who don't read them as a pair.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 8, 1999
Format: Paperback
'Highways to a War' is a wonder and interesting novel to read. It explores many intersting issues and concepts, including love, human suffering and friendships. It initially seems long and it is difficult to get into, but in time the reader gets drawn into the story and you won't want to put it down.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 4, 1999
Format: Paperback
No better way to get a feeling for Vietnam and Cambodia during the war years than through the eyes and emotions of a news photographer. The great grandson of an 19th century adventurer, he is destined to follow human conflict in two of Asia's most beautiful countries. Once there he establishes his credential as the best in the trade, with a bravery and insight which shows the depth of his understanding of the two nations. After falling in love with a native woman he knows he can never leave, but once Saigon and Phnom Penh both fall his paradise is torn apart - and he goes missing. His story is told by a childhood friend who sets out to track him down, and who piece by piece uncovers his life of the previous 15 years.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 20, 1996
Format: Hardcover
Koch has the ability to to make you feel the heat, eat the
food,and live the lives of the people in Vietnam and
Cambodia. This is the war written from an Australian,
not an American perspective, which opens up insights that
no US citizen can make.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By JS on December 17, 2011
Format: Paperback
as an expat Australian and a prolific reader of fiction, I just want to remark that I think this the most moving piece of fiction to come out of Australia, ever. This is the only review I've ever written on Amazon, but this book has stayed with my over the years unlike any other work of oz fiction. I'd temper this by saying it is likely more appealing for a male rather than female audience, given the subject matter. Sweeping, embellished narrative that some might see as old fashioned. But just a terrific book, and a candidate for greatest ever novel by an Australian author.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Nicole de Jager on March 15, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is an incredible book with intriguing characters and a very tightly woven plot. The historic background is very well done with a fair balance of both sides. I highly recommend this book as one of the best I have read this year.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By AvidReader27 on March 1, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The book is interesting, but I downloaded the online Kindle version and it is so full of typographical errors and incorrect punctuation that it is sometimes difficult to get through the text. Not sure if the print version has some of the same issues or not. The book is one of several that were recommended as background for a trip I took to Cambodia.
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