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In the Shadow of the Banyan: A Novel (edition 2012)

by Vaddey Ratner

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5624617,723 (4.12)92
Member:sallyse
Title:In the Shadow of the Banyan: A Novel
Authors:Vaddey Ratner
Info:Simon & Schuster (2012), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 336 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:Khmer Rouge regime, Raami, survival

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In the Shadow of the Banyan: A Novel by Vaddey Ratner

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English (45)  Dutch (1)  All languages (46)
Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
Beautifully written novel covering strife, love,loss, and resilience. Loosely based on the author's experience during the Cambodian killing fields. Worth the read for the historical perspective and the human perspective. I really enjoyed this even though it stirred up many unpleasant emotions. ( )
  becka11y2 | Jan 19, 2016 |
Absolutely loved this book that brought me to tears. ( )
  Suzanne81 | Jan 12, 2016 |
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 | Dec 27, 2015 |
This is a beautifully written tragic and heartbreaking story.

The writing is so lyrical and amazing, it actually diminishes the impact of what you are reading while you are reading it. It was only after I put the book down and had time to think about the story itself that I could try to comprehend what the people were enduring. Even then, I knew I could never fully understand what it would be like to try and live under those conditions.

( )
  grandpahobo | Sep 24, 2015 |
Finished In the Shade of the Banyan and now know quite a bit more about the 1975 Cambodian revolution which instituted the forced march of 1 - 2 million people as the Khmer Rouge attempted to create their version of utopia. The story is told from the 7 year old point of view of Raami, whose father was a descendent from the royal family of Cambodia and therefore had experienced education in Europe and was an accomplished poet. Early on when Raami reveals his name, it becomes a turning point as her father is led away and she is initially blamed for the loss. Raami moves from country village to work camp with her family, her mother and baby sister, an uncle and Grandmother. Without revealing too much, many do not survive the ordeal of what was later called the killing fields, but Raami's journey was an interesting one to read. I can't say that I loved the writing - a bit much on the use of similes - but there were interesting ideas about the importance of story telling to survive.
"Milk Mother said 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, to people and beings we never see but who we feel exist".
I will list here some good passages from the novel:
"Everything must be silenced. Black was the color of the Revolution. Mama, with her jade-colored sarong and light pink shirt yet to be dyed, resembled a lotus shooting out of the mud. The colors, or maybe her—the brightness of her presence amidst this straw dwelling and dirt—made me want to hold on tight. I flung my arms around her slender frame, the tapered waist Papa had described as the narrowing of a river. A strait to the unknown."

"Bury me and I’ll thrive as countless insects
I bend neither to your weapon nor will
Even as you trample upon my bones
I cower not under your soulless tread
Or fear your shadow casting upon my grave."

"A story, I had learned, through my own constant knitting and reknitting of remembered words, can lead us back to ourselves, to our lost innocence, and in the shadow it casts over our present world, we begin to understand what we only intuited in our naïveté—that while all else may vanish, love is our one eternity. It reflects itself in joy and grief, in my father’s sudden knowledge that he would not live to protect me, and in his determination to leave behind a part of himself—his spirit, his humanity—to illuminate my path, give light to my darkened world. He carved his silhouette in the memory of the sky for me to return to again and again."

Interestingly, I found the author's note at the end to be very thoughtful, understanding why she wrote a novel instead of a memoir, the lessons she tried to bring back to her life and her amazing accomplishments in school . Her father's thoughts continued to shape her life.

"We are all beggars, my father said. It doesn’t matter what we wear—rags, a saffron robe, or silk. We each ask the same of life. I may have been born a princess. But that beggar, that blind man, who was probably born poor and no doubt had suffered greatly, discerned enough beauty to want to continue living. He deserved our highest respect. His life had as much nobility as ours, as anyone’s, and we ought to accord it dignity. I cannot recall my father’s every word exactly, but as young as I was, it was clear what he wanted me to understand. His gesture and words resonate with me to this day. For all the loss and tragedy I have known, my life has taught me that the human spirit, like the lifted hands of the blind, will rise above chaos and destruction, as wings in flight." ( )
  novelcommentary | May 25, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 45 (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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Book description
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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