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In the Shadow of the Banyan: A Novel Paperback – June 4, 2013
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"Children of Blood and Bone"
Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut. Pre-order today
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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 Raami clings to the only remaining vestige of her childhoodthe mythical legends and poems told to her by her fatherand fights for her improbable survival Displaying the author s extraordinary gift for language In the Shadow of the Banyan is a brilliantly wrought tale of hope and transcendence This unputdownable Better Homes and Gardens New York Timesbestselling novel tells the powerful and inspiring story of a girl who comes of age during the Cambodian genocide In the Shadow of the Banyanis an unforgettable celebration of innocence and the transcendent power of imagination a work Little Beeauthor Chris Cleave calls one of the most extraordinary acts of storytelling I have ever encounteredutterly heartbreaking and impossibly beautiful For seven year old Raami the collapse of her childhood world begins with the footsteps of her father returning home in the early dawn hours bringing details of the misery and upheaval in the streets of Cambodia s capital city It is March of 1975 and the civil war between the US backed government and the Khmer Rouge insurgency has reached its climax Soon her family s life of carefully guarded royal privilege is swept up in the chaos of revolution Over the next four years as Raami endures the deaths of loved ones starvation and labor camp she clings to the only remaining vestige of childhoodthe mythical legends and poems her father told her In a climate of systematic violence where memory is sickness and justification for execution Raami fights for her improbable survival With stunningly lyrical prose and instantly beloved characters
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On April 17, 1975, the Khmer Rouge, an army of ruthless thugs, entered Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, and put an end to life as Cambodians knew it. Declaring a new government, the black uniformed revolutionaries killed government officials and personnel. The Khmer Rouge then set out their plan to relocate and re-educate the population under the communist dictatorship of Pol Pot.
Informative and well-written.
Ratner uses lines of poetry and flowery prose to create a serene atmosphere that is completely counter to devastation of the events taking place in the story. This gives the story a real sense of Buddhism; a peacefulness that's hard to describe concerting the topic. It can be surreal at times. Another thing I liked is the narrator, a child, is not the typical precocious child wise bound her years, instead her account reads like that of a child forced to grow up by her circumstances. It is a more adult like voice, but I think this only adds to her lose of innocence and her childhood. This is a beautifully written and heartbreaking account of the ugliness we humans can inflict on one another.
In the Shadow of the Banyan, by Vaddey Ratner, is set during the Cambodian civil war of the 1970s. We first meet our narrator, Raami, living a charmed life as a royal princess on an idyllic estate in Phnon Penh. But very quickly, revolution comes and Raami's family must leave their home to go become workers in the country. This is especially difficult for Raami as she suffered from polio as a baby and has difficulty walking. It's also difficult for her royal father, who believes in the ideals of the revolution but must hide his identity for his family's safety. He makes a sacrifice that most can't understand and that his family finds it difficult to forget. As Raami is shuffled from one place to another, connecting with some people and completely dissociating herself from others, working long, hard hours and slowly starving, we see the Cambodian civil war in all its terrible reality, and learn the power that stories can have to lift us away from our lives.
I cannot believe that this is Ratner's first novel, and in her second language, no less. The writing was absolutely stunning. Imagery fills every page, imagery of flight and heroes and sacrifice and love. There are beautiful poems to break through the drudgery and pain of everyday living. And so many amazing characters. There is Raami herself, of course, introspective and lonely for most of the book as she sees society fall apart around her. And her mother, one of the strongest and most resourceful women I've read about in some time, who works tirelessly for her daughter. And Raami's father, the poet prince, who stands for everything that is lost in the revolution - culture and beauty and happy times. And so many others who exemplify generosity and kindness of spirit, or hopelessness and despair.
Obviously, any book about civil war and revolution and genocide is not easy to read. And this book is about all those things. But it's also about the bonds that can grow and strengthen between people, about the different kinds of sacrifice that parents and lovers choose to make for the people who matter most to them, and about all of the ways that humans have of surviving hardship and making the most of what they have, all of the stories we tell ourselves about the heroes that came before and the beauty that they saw in our flawed, imperfect world. Absolutely beautiful - I hope you give it a try.