My current reading is novels from countries that have yet to appear on my website. Of the three I have read this past weekend, the Cambodian, Vaddey Ratner‘s In the Shadow of the Banyan, is by far the best. I came across it when doing some research for a family member who is going off to Cambodia (and who is now there). I own another Cambodian novel but it is in French, translated from the Cambodian. This novel was written in English and very good it is, too. It is a semi-autobiographical story about a girl who is seven when the novel starts. She is the descendant of a previous king. The story recounts what happens to her and her family (and many other Cambodians) when the Khmer Rouge take over. Much of it is inevitably unpleasant but Ratner writes really well and manages to show the inner strength she and her mother have which enables them to survive.
The Brunei and Maldives novels I found thanks to Ann Morgan’s superb blog A year of reading the world. She has managed to find novels in English from all sorts of exotic places with diligent research and gentle persuasion and I doubt if I would have found these two without her efforts. The Maldives novel, Abdullah Sadiq‘s Dhon Hiyala and Ali Fulhu, is a recounting of a traditional Maldives legend, replete with magic, dreams, violence, sex, trickery and all the other features we associate with fables. It is also available on line for free, so there is no excuse for not reading it. There are other Maldives novels but they are in Dhivehi and have not been translated into any other language and, in any case, are very difficult to obtain outside the Maldives even if you could read Dhivehi.
Christopher Sun‘s book Four Kings s definitely the worst of the three. Indeed, were it not for the fact that it is the only novel in English from Brunei, it would not be here. As with the Maldives, there are other Brunei novels but only available in Malay. Sun’s novel is a not very good thriller in the The Da Vinci Code style, i.e. one involving religion. If you like that sort of thing, you may enjoy it but I cannot really recommend it unless, like me, you feel that you should have read a Brunei novel. More exotic (to me) countries to come.