This book was sent to me by the author for honest review. It was nominated for the Man Asian Literary Prize, and interstingly is the only book that has been that was written by a non-Asian writer.
It’s the twin stories of Jacquie and Paaku, one a woman in the 20’s following her explorer Grandfathers footsteps into the Cambodian jungle, the other a boy in the 1200’s on the cusp of manhood who becomes embroiled in politics accidentally when he comes afoul of the kings right hand man.
As the two stories unfold, and we learn more about each character, we start to see that they’re inextricably linked somehow. As she goes further into the wilds, and explores the temples and the past of the country, she finds that she feels a deja vu, she’s been here before. In the past, Paaku, an orphan, slowly discovers the mystery of his birth and the role that religion is playing in the down fall of the kingdom. He’s thought to have a strange gift, an ability, but is he really being played? A pawn in a political game?
Ferrer has a gift for the evocative, for creating a sense of mood, time and place, as well as the small details of everyday life. Jacquie is a well rounded character, struggling with her own past, and the events of her own era, and I love the way she’s linked and also juxtaposed with Paaku, who lives in a world where religion is such a part of everyday life, and magic and mystery rule. She’s a woman of science who has a spiritual experience, and Paaku is an ordinary person, too, who has a religious one. It’s a journey into darkness, into the heart of the region, and into the past, which is beautifully researched and detailed.
A thoroughly entertaining piece of historical fiction, with spiritual dimensions and written with in a lyrical, detailed style.
Read It If: you love getting to grips with the everyday life of the past, an intelligent, emotive read.