The most important book of this century!
This is an incredible memoir of one of the most horrific events of the 20th Century - the Cambodian Genocide - and it is told in a simple, honest, and utterly compelling manner that has you gripped from the very start to the very last word. It takes you on the journey of Channy's transformation from a typical 13 year old, through one of the worst episodes in human history, to a determined survivor bent on protecting her mother and older sister and reuniting the family again.
It's storytelling is simple and honest. Channy let's us know what happened, and what she did, and she doesn't shy away from the humiliating, nor the shameful, but includes it along with the heart rending, and the humorous. The story has everything that you could possibly want from any narrative, factual or fiction, that really draws you into the story and plays with your emotions as the events unfold.
This is an extraordinary story expertly told, but it is so much more than that, it is a documenting of an atrocity like no other. We rarely get a glimpse of such historic events that ordinary people can relate to and fully understand. Most reports of such events come from journalists or historians and while such reports are important and have their place in explaining what happened they don't put you in the situation, they don't give you a real feel for the events.
As an historical document this book has few equals, it gives a glimpse into a regeme and the everyday life of people who lived under it in an honest and authentic way with facts and emotions given equal weight.
While the story certainly isn't pleasant, except towards the end, it is not an unpleasant read. The story grips you and you really care about the characters, each time she gives up you will here to go on, when she gets one over on the Black Uniforms you applaud her, when she is in danger you hope she will make it through, despite knowing that she wrote the book many years later so has to have survived. It doesn't give any real insight into how the conflict started, nor why such atrocities were inflicted on a Nation, but it explain why people do what they have to do in order to survive, and how ordinary people become exceptional when placed in extraordinary situations.
This book is an absolute must read and anyone who doesn't read this book is missing out on an important work of Literature, note the capital, and on an important understanding of what it means to be human.
STEPH PARKER - South Australia
Review by Steph Parker