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War Brides by Helen Bryan When four women reunite in an English village to commemorate the end of a war they lived through together, television cameras miss the more newsworthy angle: The women's mission is not only to commemorate—they've also returned to settle a score and avenge one of their own. Learn more | See related books
Patrick Sweeting has lived in Indonesia for many years, working mainly for Oxfam and the United Nations, trying to make Indonesia a safer and better place. I heard him speaking on radio about his life, and it has been amazing. He even lived in a remote village in Sumatra for a couple of years, learning about traditional life.
Reading Jaipong Dancer, I started to get a sense of what that must have been like. For a young Englishman to be so far from home, and in an incredibly different world (I can only imagine what Indonesia was like 30 or 40 years ago) - it must have felt so alien. Yet when he writes about the village that his young protagonist, Yahyu, comes from, and another that she stays in for several weeks, the feeling in the words is gentle and warm. People are decent, life is simple, family is everything. I get the impression Sweeting loved his time in that village, despite its isolation.
Yahyu's young life has been quite sheltered, though she is a beautiful girl and has become the best dancer in her school of traditional Javanese dance. It appears she will rise above village life and enjoy a future which nobody in her family has ever known. However, seduced by a foreign man who tells her he loves her and leaves her pregnant, her fate is not her own - her father decides to marry her off to an old man she cannot abide. She runs away and takes refuge in the thick, dark Sumatran forest.
The forest scenes are probably the parts I enjoyed most in this novel. Although Yahyu is hungry and often frightened in the forest (she is scared of the dark and the noises in the night terrify her), this is where, to me, she is safest.Read more ›
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