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Showing results for tags 'Madeleine Thien'.
Gosh this is boring. An interminable story with characters you cannot tell apart who are supposed to be fictional ciphers for a real life fictional family in Canada. Heaps of musical references and if you love Bach you might get them, but I don't. Also, interspersed with Chinese writing and poems that don't seem to add much. Creating something this dull from such an exciting period of history is an impressive achievement that has rightly been recognised by the Booker judges. *0000
Dogs At The Perimeter is a flawed novel. Loosely, it is about the separation, dislocation and loss of identity caused by the Khmer Rouge rule in Cambodia. We open in Vancouver with a woman, Janie, a neurological researcher looking for her colleague, Hiroji who has gone missing some three months earlier. Both Janie and Hiroji have ties to Cambodia – for Janie, it was the country of her childhood; for Hiroji it is where his brother disappeared in 1975. What follows are a series of narrations, some set in 1970s Cambodia and some set in later (uncertain) times. The narratives can flick back and forth, use multiple points of view and characters change their names as various points in their lives. It is difficult to piece together a coherent narrative from the fragments – made all the more difficult by every key event being shrouded in opaque language. It probably could be pieced together but the characters all seem rather wooden and it hardly seems worth the effort. There are some positives. The description of the horrors of the Khmer Rouge are written with a care and compassion. Yes, there were atrocities, but this was set against daily life, hope, ideologies. Some of the Khmer Rouge were kind idealists and some of the rural people (the old people) were welcoming towards the displaced urban people (the new people). However, the good was far outweighed by the bad – the arbitrariness of decisions and behaviours; the shortage of food; the mistrust of education; and the suspicion and intolerance of dissent. There are scenes of the evacuation of Phnom Penh; scenes in the villages; and scenes in a prison. Powerful though these scenes are, they are quite similar to Vaddey Ratner’s (far superior) Shadow Of The Banyan, suggesting that the two novels may have drawn their material from the same source. Alas, the positives do not outweigh the negatives. The story of Hiroji is disjointed and the structure is wrong. Hiroji’s mystery is mentioned very briefly at the outset and is then followed by Janie’s story, only for Janie to be abandoned and Hiroji revisited at the end in a time sequence that frequently left the reader imaging one era and one character whilst then metamorphosing into someone else, somewhere else and at some other time. Much as one would like to express solidarity with those brave people who survived this awful time, it does not redeem a flawed novel. ***00