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The Question of Red by Laksmi Pamuntjak

The Question of Red

by Laksmi Pamuntjak

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1453122,610 (4.13)13

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In 1960s Indonesia, a world being shaped by revolution, Amba is hell-bent on carving her own path through life. A path away from the unfortunate essence of her name (being that of a tragic Indonesian princess). Life begins to play tricks on her when she comes in contact with not one but two suitors. One of which offers her stability the other one carnal pleasure. How can one decide between the two? Amba has her work cut out for her as politics and religion come into play. She may even find out more about herself along the way.
Okay so first off a warning, the writing in this book is very choppy and I wholeheartedly believe that that is due to it being translated from Indonesian to English. But once you get past the first couple of chapters the writing just kind of seems to grow on you and you get past it. there are some portions of the book that seem to repeat itself over and over again. there is also a lot of backstory for characters who seem non consequential to the main plot. As English is my first language, a lot of the names of people and places in this book are a little hard for me to follow. But again after a few chapters of reading you find that you can get past it.
It's interesting to watch another country's revolution through their eyes. The rise and fall of Communism was a huge point in history in every country it touched. And this place the central scene throughout this book. There were however a lot of lighthearted instances in this book. Parts of it actually reminded me of My Big Fat Greek Wedding in the family dynamics that are portrayed. Not to lump one group with the other but it reminded me of the same lightheartedness and familiarity with the scene that you feel while watching that film.
I learned something while reading this book that I did not know before: Like Judaism, you can be only "partly Muslim" and still practice local tradition and customs older than the 14th century. I had no idea that this was even possible. But you learn something new everyday and definitely learn new things while reading.
All technicalities aside this book was a great read. One that I would definitely recommend to anyone who can get past the choppy writing style of the translated work. ( )
  TheReadingMermaid | Jan 16, 2019 |
This is a complex fictional novel about an Indonesian woman Amba who in her youth was engaged to someone her parents approved but she fell in love with a young doctor while working for a remote hospital as a translator of English. Their affair was interrupted by the virulent reign of Suharto and Sukarno and the government’s crackdown in the 1960’s on communists and the wholesale exile of the Dutch who had been the colonial masters of the Islands. Her lover disappeared but left her with child. She then married another for convenience. Later in life she searches for her lover and discovers the love letters that he wrote while in prison. Her daughter becomes a successful artist. The plot is rich in Indonesian-Javanese literature, history and customs. Can one women love two men? Read and discover.

I was provided with an electronic copy in return for an honest review. ( )
  mcdenis | Jul 17, 2016 |
In 2006 a woman visiting a grave on the former prison island of Buru is attacked by the dead man's wife and half-killed. When she recovers she tells the story of the passionate affair she'd had with the man for a few weeks in 1965 although she was engaged to somebody else, how they'd been separated during an army raid on a subversive friend's wake, and how she'd loved him ever since, despite their never meeting again.

The historical background was fascinating and the emotional complexities of the characters and their relationships with each other and their families and others reminds me just how foreign Indonesia is even after 28 years. ( )
  Robertgreaves | Jul 17, 2015 |
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