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In the Shadow of the Banyan: A Novel Paperback – June 4, 2013
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"Lyrical . . . It's Raami's mother who will stay in your heart . . . Somehow she retains the will to survive and the strength to help others, fiercely telling her daughter, 'Remember who you are.'"
"How is it that so much of this bleak novel is full of beauty, even joy? . . . What is remarkable, and honorable, here is the absence of anger, and the capacity--seemingly infinite--for empathy."
"The horrors committed by Cambodia's Khmer Rouge, as experienced by one extremely resilient girl. A brutal novel, lyrically told."
"Lyrical . . . a love story to her homeland and an unflinching account of innocents caught in the crossfire of fanaticism."
"A tale of perseverance, hope and the drive toward life."
"Humanity . . . shines through in her storytelling."
"For all the atrocities witnessed and hardships experienced, Ratner's story is filled to an even larger extent with opportunism and beauty. Ratner's gift is her exquisite descriptions of the careful details of daily life . . . Ratner describes her desire to memorialize the loved ones she lost with an enduring work of art. She has done just that; hers is a beautiful tale with considerable poetry and restraint. "In the Shadow of the Banyan "is an important novel, written by a survivor with unexpected grace and eloquence."
"The powerful story of how even the most brutal regime lacked the power of a father's love for his daughter."
"Gorgeous . . . Ratner bears witness to the unyielding human spirit."
About the Author
Vaddey Ratner is a survivor of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. Her critically acclaimed bestselling debut novel, In the Shadow of the Banyan, was a Finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award and has been translated into seventeen languages. She is a summa cum laude graduate of Cornell University, where she specialized in Southeast Asian history and literature. Her most recent novel is Music of the Ghosts.
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Top Customer Reviews
At least one person gave this book a poor review because it was written by a princess, one of the class who inherited their wealth, did nothing to improve the quality of life for their subjects, yet insisted upon being called “Highness.” Contrary to Ayn Rand, these are not the Atlases of society, but rather the sort of people that make irruptions of social chaos more-or-less inevitable. However, rich people aren’t usually evil, just complacent, and incapable of understanding that their wealth is a matter of privileged circumstances rather than something they have earned and deserve. However, this does not apply to Vaddey Ratner. She has her Grandmother Queen suggest that it was their karma, and her mother admit that “this Revolution was an old blaze reignited, possibly centuries of injustice manifesting itself like a raging inferno.” Social stratification makes a society ripe for the sociopathic element to emerge and stage a revolution. It takes very little sophistication to use a machine gun, and ruthless leaders can easily manipulate people by capitalizing upon their sense of social injustice. It is indeed odd that people are so easily manipulated by ignorant evil. Successful social revolutions need to be more like evolution than war, but this requires wisdom from the enlightened members of society.
Unfortunately, in present day Cambodia, very little has been learned. Workers are murdered when they strike for a living wage. Many of the most attractive young women, who have little chance at getting an education, turn to selling sex rather than submitting to the worse indignity of factory work.
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.
That being said, I didn't find the novel to be maudlin. Some people said it brought them to tears. That was not the case for me and I'm normally pretty weepy. I found Vaddey Ratner to be an exceptional writer. Her writing is a combination of beautiful prose interspersed with events that were horrible and tragic but Ratner did not exploit the violence with graphic descriptions. I think because she didn't, I was able to absorb what little Raami (Vaddey) saw and felt without the complication of my own emotions. Don't shy away from reading this because you think it will be depressing. It is actually quite hopeful as written. Yes, people are randomly shot, Raami ate a lot of bugs and secretly nibbled raw rice as she was working, she watched executions, most of her family died - but she survives, and not entirely alone - I won't spoil it for you. The book is actually filled with tremendous love from beginning to end and is beautifully written. You should read it.