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Different approach to telling the horror story of the Communist take over of Cambodia between 1975-'79, and the merciless slaughter of nearly 1/3 of the population (about 3 million) by the Khmer Rouge. The author relies on her own experiences as a child observing the atrocities, but chooses to use a fictional approach, telling the story through the eyes of a 7 yr. old female character named Raami, instead of exclusively using her personal memories to create the story. Ratner's style is poetic and artistic, and she tells much of the story through metaphors and similies--using the folklore, mythology, Buddhist poetry and fables, and the stories of her caretakers and poetic father to make any sense of what is happening, as observed by a child that has never known fear, pain, or monsters other than mythical dragons.
Ratner doesn't go into great detail compared with other books I've read about Phnom Penh and the Khmer Rouge, but the overall barbarism and senseless chaos recounted through the eyes of a child whose childhood has turned into a nightmare, ratchets the violence and fear up to another level that is heartbreaking and sickening. Raami's is a royal family, described as *Our family is like a bouquet, each stem and blossom perfectly arranged.* In the middle of a celebration, they are torn from the palatial home, separated, and thrown into the crowds of human despair by the brutal regime. The familial bonds, the respect for life, and the ability to pull strength and hope from nowhere add a sense of inspiration to what could have been a completely depressing novel.
There is a scene where a rice farmer is carving a small wooden calf, he says it is to hang around the neck of the mother cow that constantly cries *maaa maaa* mourning the death of her calf. The farmer tells Raami he is making the little wooden calf to hang around the neck of the cow so she "will have somewhere for her sorrow to go." The tremendous sorrow and loss is often expressed in beautiful passages like this that made the reading often meditative. Even with such meaningful writing and disturbing subject, there is a sense of recollection in the telling, an overriding distance that seems sometimes removed from emotion, and an insight and style that seems years beyond a 7 year olds, that combined made it difficult for me to genuinely connect with the storyteller, Raami. It didn't detract from the story, just my depth of involvement with the emotional side of Raami's experience--but no regrets. The narration fits the story and the character of Raami well. A timeless story that should be told and remembered.
12 of 13 people found this review helpful
In the Shadow of the Banyan, by Vaddey Ratner, is the "sleeper" novel-memoir of the summer. This semi-autobiographical novel about the life of one child and her family, in Cambodia, during the regime of Pol Pot, is a must read that the listener will never forget! It is an exquisitely written and powerful account of life and death in the killing fields of Cambodia and the power of a father's love through his self-sacrifice in order that his family, most importantly his children, could endure and survive, both physically and spiritually, through the four years of mass genocide and torture of the Cambodian people under the regime of Pol Pot.
Vaddey Ratner's own story, written as a novel, is both extremely powerful and gut wrenching. The story spans the four years of the Pol Pot regime. Written in the first person voice of the young Raami, and narrated over the four years of her life, begins when Raami is 5, living a life of privilege as a princess in Phnom Penh, and then quickly moves through the 4 years of extreme deprivation, starvation and death of the Cambodian people in the killing fields of Cambodia, under the Pol Pot regime.
The author's story is one that you will never forget. It is among one the most beautifully written contemporary novels that I have listened to on Audible in the over 10 years that I have been a member! It is a novel that must not be missed, both for the story and an understanding, in the lyrical and poetic writing of the author, of the suffering of the Cambodian people during the holocaust that they endured. Like her father, who was famous poet in Cambodia, the author, Vaddey Ratner, has a true gift for writing that lives, in her, through her father.
In the Shadow of the Banyan is written tribute to the 1 to 2 million Cambodians who died in the killing fields during the regime of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, and to her father, who gave her, through his own sacrifice, the gift to endure the unendurable and to hope when there was none!
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
What made the experience of listening to In the Shadow of the Banyan the most enjoyable?
The fact that it was told from the child's view, and that it was based on a true story.
What was one of the most memorable moments of In the Shadow of the Banyan?
The death and burial of big uncles baby.
What does Greta Lee bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?
She brings reality to the story.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
No. It was too harrowing.
I wondered why this audio was so reasonable. Now I know it is cheaply narrated by a woman with a totally expressionless American accent. Totally distracting. I finally gave up. Shame.
A moving story of the human sorrows inflicted under the deadly Khmer Rouge Regime as seen through the eyes of a young girl. It is a bit odd to describe a book about such a terrible subject as beautiful, yet that is what it is due to Ratner's wonderful narrative. Some could say that is 'fluffs' over the realities of the time, but these are thoughts and memories from a child's perspective - there are countless other books available that cover the horrors in grim detail, that is not what this book is about. The story is not just about the plight of the Cambodian people under the Regime, it is the tale of a young girl's experiences as she is dragged from innocence through a series of tragic events and her way of finding hope by referring to the stories and traditional beliefs of her culture.
Books like this remind us of the ugliness and the beauty of human kind.
Lee's narration can seem a little 'airy' for the subject matter, but as the book is a child's interpretation of events it somehow acceptable. Both the writing style and narration no way detract from the seriousness of the subject matter.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful