Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Surprise! Finished April's Surprise Me Book!

This is a quick challenge that I saw on  I Push Book's blog. I think this used to be an official sign-up type of challenge, but it lapsed. Lucky for me people with expanding TBR lists kept it up long enough for me to notice it.

I just managed to finish my April book, even as I picked my May one. The May book is one of Anne Ursu's first books, written for an adult audience, Spilling Clarence. I couldn't find it in a library near me, but luckily I have some credits on paperbackswap, so it should be winging its way toward me now.

Year Of Living DangerouslyThe April book was C.J. Koch's The Year of Living Dangerously. This went on my Goodreads TBR list on October 23, 2010, and I have no idea how it got there. It was written in 1978, so obviously I didn't see current reviews. Did someone I know recommend it? Did I see it on a book blogger's page? Was I interested in Indonesia? Nothing rings a bell.

The book provides some information on political turbulence in Indonesia back before Vietnam became an American household name. But it does so through a warped mirror, as the characters are almost all white male reporters covering this exotic land with its primitive people caught between communism and fascism. That's how the characters see it, not how the Indonesians would describe things. Even fellow white women are a mysterious different country to these guys, either the mysterious Russian who skillfully traps our hero by inviting him to stay at the same hotel with her, or the desired girlfriend whom our hero only realizes he loves when she tries to leave him. With such barriers even inside their own culture, it's no surprise that the idea of treating the locals as equals is so baffling to our guy.

It's obviously written before people besides white men were really expected to be full characters in a story, so it seems a bit unfair to complain about their lack, but it's not really powerful enough to stand on its own merits with these limitations. And I'm fairly ignorant about history in this time period, so I can't even compare its version of the events against personal knowledge; I don't remember more than a line or two from high school world history ("many countries in Asia suffered political turmoil during this period" probably sums it up). The most interesting part was the final chapter, which might be a fever dream of the protagonist as he tries to give himself a happier ending.

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