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ALR Staff | Book Reviews

 

IN THE AFTERMATH of the Second World War and the end of Japan’s occupation of Malaysia, Teoh Yun Ling is desperately seeking her own peace. She harbours a deep anger towards the Japanese, who interned her for three years in a labour camp where she lost her youth, her innocence, her sister – and two fingers. She is angry also with herself, for having survived when her sister did not. Her maimed hand is a reminder of deeper scars... Review by Kathleen Hwang 

 

ALR Staff | Book Reviews

 

LUCK SELDOM rears its head in Alexander Khan’s memoir, Orphan of Islam. Khan was raised to be ashamed of his mixed-race heritage, was wilfully deprived of his mother’s love and cruelly abused in an effort to make him into a good Muslim. Born to an English mother and a Pakistani father, he was left stranded without a mother (who was cast out by his father’s family), a father (who died) or a true homeland. Early in the narrative, he recalls questioning his circumstances: ‘Why have I been singled out for such harsh punishment so far from home? What have I done to deserve this?’ Revieiw by Ysabele Cheung

 

Kelly Falconer | Book Reviews

 

SET IN MALAYSIA, When All the Lights Are Stripped Away is the engaging story of a young man’s coming of age, his search for his sense of identity and his acceptance of how the past pulls on the present. Divided between his loyalty to the memory of his mother, a painter, and his animosity towards his father, a powerful, influential businessman, Anil drops out of high school and flees his small hometown to Kuala Lumpur soon after his mother’s sudden, accidental death... Review by Kelly Falconer

 

ALR Staff | Book Reviews

 

IN A VERY BRIEF TIME, Escape from Camp 14 has become a famous book. This is not surprising. It is well-written and easy to read even if its subject is horrific. Since it began life in the form of a newspaper article, it has been serialized on BBC radio and extracted around the world in a variety of other newspapers. It tells the story of a man now called Shin Dong-hyuk, who lives in Seoul after having spent some time in the United States. But he was formerly Shin In Geum, born in one of the toughest North Korean labour camps where there was no faith, hope or charity, just sheer mind-boggling brutality. Today he has found a sort of peace, recount­ing his story to audiences who listen to his tale with horror... Review by James E. Hoare

 

ALR Staff | Book Reviews

 

Despite all the news coverage, precious little is known about what life is like for those in the so-called ‘Hermit Kingdom’. American author Brandon W. Jones seeks to address the deficiency with his debut All Woman and Springtime. Essentially a coming-of-age tale, the novel follows two young North Korean women as they make the transition from their teenage years to adulthood in the most brutal of circumstances... Review by Clarissa Sebag Montefiore

 

ALR Staff | Book Reviews

 

'They say they feed you first because the well-fed ghost is prettier.’ So observes Hyun Woo, the lead character in this novel, as he watches his fellow prisoners being led to the execution chamber. He is serving an eighteen-year sentence for his involvement in the Kwangju Uprising... Review by Lucia Sehui Kim

 

ALR Staff | Book Reviews

 

ELLEN THOMAS is a seasoned, award-winning British journalist embedded with British troops in Afghanistan; Jalil had been her ‘turp’ (interpreter). They were friends. He had saved her life, yet she refused to give him a loan that would have allowed him to study engineering in the United States. After he is killed she is remorseful and feels indirectly responsible, and takes it upon herself to find out how he died... Review by Michael Hoffman

 

ALR Staff | Book Reviews

 

WITH A Michael Ondaatje book, the images persist long after you’ve forgotten the intricacies of the story: a woman dying within a cave of swimmers in a desert (The English Patient); a young nun falling into the arms of a man building a bridge (In the Skin of a Lion); a truck driver crucified to the tarmac on a Sri Lankan road (Anil’s Ghost). His latest work, The Cat’s Table, includes another image that’s both spectacular and matter-of-fact: a ship passing through the Suez Canal, the demarcation line between Asia and Europe and the journey within a journey at the heart – and the exact mid-point – of this tale of transition... Review by Fionulla McHugh

 

ko ko thett | Book Reviews

 

‘There are more poets than stray dogs in this country,’ Thitsar Ni, a leader of a Burmese poetic pack was heard to lament at a Yangon teashop. Burma/Myanmar, with its diverse literary and oral traditions, should not surprise you if it brags the highest density on earth of poets per square mile. After all, the Burmese are going through a collective adjustment disorder, known as transition. Besides, you don’t even need pen or paper to be a poet. You just need to utter your poem in the manner of poets of oral traditions and spoken word...

 

ALR Staff | Book Reviews

 

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Kelly Falconer | Book Reviews

 

The subtitle of this book is ‘Hong Jun Investigates’, and it’s one of four in a series starring the same protagonist, a lawyer who has returned to Beijing after spending several years studying and working in America...

 

ALR Staff | Book Reviews

 

Cheap labour is a key component of competitiveness for companies striving to make a profit in today’s global market...

 

Alisha Haridasani | Book Reviews

 

From 14 February 1989 onwards, Salman Rushdie did not receive his post directly. Instead, every letter or invitation went to his agency, where it was screened and tested for explosives before a member of his protection team would pick it up and take it to him...

 

Kelly Falconer | Book Reviews

 

THE HERO OF THIS STORY is the eponymous thief, who recounts his life as a pickpocket in Tokyo, and how he moved from petty crime to involvement in a murder. He never tells us his name, and it is pronounced to him only once...