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In the Shadow of the Banyan: A Novel by…
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In the Shadow of the Banyan: A Novel

by Vaddey Ratner

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Showing 1-5 of 56 (next | show all)
Wow. Hauntingly beautiful, sad... where do I start? I knew about the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge, but this book really made it personal.

At first, I thought it was a little implausible that the protagonist is supposed to be 7 years old yet is so mature and learned. (This coming from someone who also had her nose in a book all the time at 7 years old - but I was reading Nancy Drew, not my country's national literature.) However, as the story moved along, the author managed to make it work. She conveys how devastating the situation was but somehow manages to make it bearable to turn the next page - not an easy task with such horrifying conditions. I highly recommend this to anyone who wants to know about the personal aspects and not dry statistics.

( )
  Lindoula | Sep 25, 2017 |
I had a hard time getting into this book. I read to about 40% and set it aside refusing to make it a DNF. You see, I wanted to read this one ever since it came out but I just kept push it down my TBR list and then when I started it, I assume my expectations got the best of me. So, instead of not finishing it, I read bits at a time. It got to a point where I had to read more and more until I was finished. Then, at the end the author has the acknowledgements and I had no idea that this was based on her life. Wow.

The story takes place in Cambodia told through the eyes of seven year old, Raami. A story of human resilience in the hands of the "Organization". Sometimes there is no telling what you will do to survive. ( )
  Sharn | Aug 27, 2017 |
In the Shadow of the Banyan - Ratner
4 stars

“War entered my childhood world not with the blasts of rockets and bombs but with my father’s footsteps as he walked through the hallway, passing my bedroom toward his.”

Vaddey Ratner was born in Cambodia to a life of royal privilege. This book is a fictionalized account of the destruction and terror of the Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1979. The author was five years old in 1975. Raami, the narrator of this story, is seven years old when the Phnom Penh is overthrown.

It’s a terrifying, sad, sad, story of the destruction of a family and a country. Ratner paints a beautiful picture of a loving, supportive family. Raami is especially close to her intelligent father who is a poet and a prince. His poetry, traditional Cambodian folktales, and the Buddhist belief system sustain Raami as she loses almost everything and everyone. It is hard to read about such atrocities. Hardest of all is thinking of them from a child’s perspective.

I liked this book and I think it is well worth reading. I knew the outlines of this war, from news accounts at the time, and from a very few children of refugees that I’ve taught in the past. (I have not read The Killing Fields). This book made that distant conflict more personal.

Ratner’s writing is descriptive, very metaphorical, and sometimes like poetry. I had trouble with the the seven year old voice of the child, Raami. I think the author had some difficulty with that voice. The voice was too precocious, the perceptions too adult. The book would have been much stronger if there had been a clear distinction between the child voice and the voice of the adult looking back on the experience. The author’s notes at the end of the book, which relate her experience of returning to Cambodia as an adult are, perhaps, the most moving aspect of the whole book. ( )
  msjudy | Jul 1, 2017 |
A somber, spiritual, partially auto-biographical story. The daughter of a king in Cambodia survives 4 years in work camps, loses family, loses hope, is tortured and starved. Somehow she survives, and this book is written to memorialize the horrors wrought by the Kmer Rouge. A tough, yet touching read. It is hard to face the cruelties which are wrought, and continue to be wrought in our world, upon fellow humans! ( )
  hemlokgang | May 30, 2017 |
A must-read for anyone trying to understand the Khmer Rouge and the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia. I read this while in Cambodia and visiting the Killing Fields and S21 Prison. I learned not to read this book just before going to bed, for I was sure to have bad dreams. Reading the book while visiting present day Cambodia, made me realize how Buddhism and the concept of compassion have helped Cambodians heal. “Every family has the same story.” I heard over and over again. “We’ve learned to live in harmony.” ( )
  brangwinn | Mar 25, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 56 (next | show all)
How is it that so much of this bleak novel is full of beauty, even joy? ...In interviews, Ratner has explained that she chose to write a novel rather than a memoir partly because she was too young at the time “to recall the exact details.” As a work of fiction, “In the Shadow of the Banyan” is less a testament to atrocity than a reconciliation with the past. At one point, Raami’s nanny tells her that stories “are like footpaths of the gods. They lead us back and forth across time and space and connect us to the entire universe.” What is remarkable, and honorable, here is the absence of anger, and the capacity — seemingly infinite — for empathy.
 
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For my mother In the memory of my father, Neak Ang Mechas Sisowath Ayuravann
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War entered my childhood world not with the blasts of rockets and bombs but with my father's footsteps as he walked through the hallway, passing my bedroom toward his.
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You are about to read an extraordinary story. It will take you to the very depths of despair and show you unspeakable horrors. It will reveal a gorgeously rich culture struggling to survive through a furtive bow, a hidden ankle bracelet, fragments of remembered poetry. It will ensure that the world never forgets the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979, when an estimated two million people lost their lives. It will give you hope, and it will confirm the power of storytelling to lift us up and help us not only survive but transcend suffering, cruelty, and loss.

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 the Khmer Rouge attempts to strip the population of every shred of individual identity, Raami clings to the only remaining vestige of her 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 a brilliantly wrought tale of human resilience.
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Told from the tender perspective of a young girl who comes of age amid the Cambodian killing fields, this novel is based on the author's personal story. 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.… (more)

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