Thursday, March 17, 2011

Innocents abound

Phew, just made it. Author Sue Guiney and her publishers Ward Wood Publishing in London sent me through a copy of her novel, A Clash of Innocents a few weeks ago and because of one excuse and another, I have only just finished reading it. Pretty good timing I reckon as Sue is in Phnom Penh as I type and I will be meeting her tomorrow evening for the 1st time, at a 'meet the author' session at Van's, next to the post office. As for the novel, I loved it. Yes, really. Novels about Cambodia are rare, novels set in an orphanage in the capital are rarer still, but this one hit the nail on the head in terms of sucking me in to keep reading until I found out the answers to all the questions that kept building in my head, the more I read. I must admit I've never got into the orphanage thing, I've never seriously thought about helping out or 'doing my bit' even though I do find Cambodian youngsters absolutely adorable, but as I'm a big softie at heart I'm not sure I would cope very well at having to walk away. I do know a few people who've run or worked at orphanages and so could see a lot of them in the main character Deborah, I didn't really believe in Kyle, the do-gooder Aussie de-miner with a hint of mystery but teenage Sam, the adopted daughter of Deborah, the head of the orphanage, was the true star of the book. Her character was so akin to a few wonderful Khmers that I've met personally, that she resonated with me throughout the eight chapters and 250-odd pages. As bright as a button and so wise beyond her years. There are many like her in Cambodia, just waiting for the opportunity to shine. And of course it was set in the place that I live, warts and all. I recommend you grab a copy of this novel. Two other books that are worth getting hold of that touch on similar topics are Kari Grady Grossman's Bones That Float and Geraldine Cox's Home Is Where The Heart Is. Very different books from the one I've just read but all three are great reads.

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Blogger Adele Ward said...

Interesting review seeing as you know the setting and people so well and I agree with your points. The characters are all so different and Sam is great.

As for Kyle - well - I don't think Deborah really sees him straight and we know why. I did find him believable, I just think he's not quite how Deborah believes him to be.

March 18, 2011 at 9:05 AM  
Blogger Andy Brouwer said...

Hi Adele,
Sure, I understand that Deborah had special feelings for Kyle, and I see so many Aussie de-miners in town that I don't believe any of them are really what they seem :-)
In fact I sometimes pop into one of the 'down-under'-preferred pubs for a bite to eat from time to time, and Kyle could be any one of the large- framed gentlemen at the bar.
I felt totally unsympathetic towards Amanda, which was all down to Sue's writing. Normally you'd feel something for someone who'd been through so much, but the way that Sue wrote it I kept wishing she'd just buzz off and leave the kids, and Deborah, alone.
However I was with Deborah, Sam and the rest of the gang all the way through the book. Talented individuals like Sam abound in Cambodia - they just need the chance to shine. And I'm sure the work Sue and other are doing with Anjali House will do just that.
Thanks again for the opportunity to read A Clash of Innocents.

March 18, 2011 at 9:50 AM  
Anonymous Harvee/Book Dilettante said...

These sound like wonderful books that I'd love to read. Cambodia is a fascinating country I'd like to know more about.

March 21, 2011 at 9:22 PM  

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