Told from the tender perspective of a young girl who comes of age amid the Cambodian killing fields, this searing first novel - based on the author’s personal story - has been hailed by Little Bee author Chris Cleave as “a masterpiece… utterly heartbreaking and impossibly beautiful.”
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, as she endures the deaths of family members, starvation, and brutal forced labor, Raami clings to the only remaining vestige of childhood - the mythical legends and poems told to her by her father. In a climate of systematic violence where memory is sickness and justification for execution, Raami fights for her improbable survival. Displaying the author’s extraordinary gift for language, In the Shadow of the Banyan is testament to the transcendent power of narrative and a brilliantly wrought tale of human resilience.
©2012 Vaddey Ratner (P)2012 Simon & Schuster
"This stunning memorial expresses not just the terrors ofthe Khmer Rouge but also the beauty of what was lost. A hauntingly powerful novel imbued with the richness of old Cambodian lore, the devastation of monumental loss, and the spirit of survival." (Publishers Weekly)
"Vaddey Ratner's novel is ravishing in its ability to humanize and personalize the Cambodian genocide of the 1970s. She makes us look unflinchingly at the evil that humankind is capable of, but she gives us a child to hold our hand - an achingly believable child - so that we won't be overwhelmed. As we have passed from one century of horrors and been plunged into a new century giving us more of the same, In the Shadow of the Banyan is a truly important literary event." (Robert Olen Butler, author of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain)
"Often lyrical, sometimes a bit ponderous: a painful,personal record of Cambodia's holocaust." (Kirkus Reviews)
The narrators overly sweet voice distracted from the tragic but gripping material. Some background on Cambodian history leading up to the revolution might have also better set the story's events.
Beautifully written book with many lessons- lessons in history, survival, government, corruption, tragedy, and the ability to find beauty in the midst of unspeakable horrors and cruelty. And all based on true story. I appreciated every minute of this book.
The story is supposed to be from the point of view of a 7 yr old child but I don't know any 7 yr old that would have this degree of maturity in the way she viewed and related to her world.
If the narrator were a teenager the book would have been more believable.
I didn't like the narrator. There was way too much 'punctuation' in her voice. Between her way of reading and the prose of the book I often found my attention wandering.
I really wanted to like this book as I know it is autobiographical and the author lived through a horrific time but the main character was just not realistic and the narrator of the book irritated me.
I haven't read the print version.
Raami of course! The story was told through her brave little-girl eyes.
Greta Lee brought just the right amount of variation in tone between characters, and narrated the exceptional prose with such tenderness.
The death of the children in the ditch during the storm, and the uncle's subsequent death.
I intend to read/listen to all of Vaddey Ratner's books... Hopefully, they aren't all a sad as this one.
Learned from a different perspective what the people of Cambodia lived through during this time in history. A lesson in philosophy, courage and fortiude.
This is a disturbing tale written in beautiful prose. I am grateful for the information I gleaned by listening to this tale, a partial powerful autobiography. Knowing this truth is completely moving.
For me there seems to be an incongruity with the first person narrative from a little girl and the sophisticated language (such as her amazing and stunning similes and metaphors) she uses.
The narrator did sound like a little girl. This worked.
I found that my favorite part of the audio was the ending which was an epilogue spoken by the author. This made the most sense to me. It was the most moving part of this book. I would rather have listened to her speak about her own life from the start without having turned her story into a novel.
This autobiographical novel by a member of the Cambodian royal family gave life to the news reports of the takeover of this region by the communists I had read decades ago. The father, whom the narrator lost, had been a prince and a famous poet and taught is handicapped daughter to see the world through his eyes. Despite the horror of seeing her family torn apart and the deprivations that left her homeless, hungry and sometimes alone, this eight-year old sees beauty around her and remembers the images painted by her father. The lyrical nature of the story-telling tied this loving daughter to her father even after their separation and what she fears is his death. Her guilt at having betrayed him because she was proud of who he was is palpable -- perhaps because these events are part of the true story of the author. The book has added dimensions in the unfolding of the painful relation with her own mother and the way the child narrator seeks out love from strangers, while trying to avoid those who would cause her further harm.
Before ordering this book, I read a long interview with the author in The Washington Post and knew about her life. Even this interview did not prepare me fully for the impact of the novel, although it left me wishing I knew more about what was fact and what was fiction.
This would be a good read even if the novel was not based on the horrible adventures of a small child who had to mature quickly in an environment so foreign to the love and plenty she had known.
Likes any genre so long as it is done well.
I got a bit put off when I thought it was a novel and not a true story, but this is a technicality. Author took a few liberties with dates, places, etc... but it is her story. It was very well done. Riches->rags->climb back up again.
Say something about yourself!
A lovely, beautifully written story. What a devastatingly tragic tale. I very much enjoyed this.
While reading the novel would be riveting, listening to it performed is a moving, exquisite experience. Hearing the Khmer words woven into the text makes the reader feel more involved in the country and culture. Unlike some of the other works about the toxic revolution in Cambodia, this book does not focus solely on the physical violence, blood, and gore until the end. Even then, it portrays anarchy and evil in a manner that allows the reader to stay with the story. Perhaps this makes the situation more disturbing, if that is possible.
What emerges is a the portrayal of a gracious and beautiful culture whose destruction is beyond comprehension. However, the grace and hope that is described in the book makes one admire and honor the survivors.
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