Unveiling Indonesia's Old Wound
I took me a week and few days to finish these 491 pages of prevailing story. (I am slow reader, sue me) This was also a delayed post, by the way. Because, I could not decide on how to write the review. I was trying to write it in Bahasa Indonesia but I did not know how to start, and I was concerned whether my possible choices of wording would trigger sensitivity, since the novel itself pokes on very sensitive matter, which is the 1965's chaotic era in our beloved land, Indonesia.
I think for a book, that good, it should not be receiving some lousy, casual, talkback review like this. I hope this casual review (or sort of) will not undermine the greatness of the book.
The writer name is Laksmi Pamuntjak. I personally have just heard of her recently by this particular book, but it turns out that she is a writer with great global and local achievements. And I do admire her gut to write this love/angst story.
The story begun when Amba, now an aged woman, survived a mysterious attack from a local woman during her visit to Pulau Buru on 2006. Amba was in a search for her long lost love, Bhisma (please do not refer to the one who joins a K-pop influenced boyband group). The couple separated during a raid in 1965. It took half of Amba's lifetime to find Bhisma.
Now, I do not want to spoil any further, because the book is a page-flipper. Let's begin with the intrinsic aspect of the novel.
Now you want to have a concentration whilst reading and following the timeline. Because, the writer starts the plot with an event in the modern daytime and it reverted back to the past.
The writer has beautifully given souls to each character, main or supporting. Therefore, readers will be taught that there lies a reason behind every action. The characterization is very well-done and "ripe". My most favorite character is, of course, our main protagonist and heroine, Amba. I can say Amba and Zarah (from Dee's Partikel) are two fictional characters that I respect, because they pursue female emancipation and whilst being young in the tender age of 20 (like moi), they face problems far beyond their ages. I feel that I connect a lot with Amba, in terms of psychical insecurity, sexual desire, innocence and career pursuits. To add, Amba and I share the same amount of interest in English. My knowledge is also expanding when reading some quotes and poems the writer embeds to the story.
Every sentence of the book is like a poem, the writer has a beautiful style of writing. Although, I find it exhausting to keep up. Although it is really beautifully-written, I think her style is not my cup of tea, because I got distracted a lot. I can tolerate Dee's writing (another Indonesian female writer) because it has a pop essence to it, therefore it is easy to absorb, eventhough she uses science terms. But Laksmi's writing requires good amount of concentration to follow. And this is a kind of book, you don't want to read when you are going mobile... which, I did, and I was kinda flipping back pages because my focus was distorted. The book is to be read best when you are in your home, on your bed. Definitely a type of book you have to spend or allocate time for it in order to understand everything.
Since the disgust of a particular literotica that I have just finished reading a long while ago, yet still gives me a longing impact, which is no other than "Fifty Shades of Grey" trilogy, I thank the writer for describing a healthy intimate scene. But, the writer is not playing safe as well, some of her wordings are intense, but somehow I find them appropriate thus I can feel the connection between Amba and Bhisma. I have been waiting for a writer to deliver a good sex scene, especially in Indonesian. As a beginner, I am trying to be adventurous with my writing, and when it comes to "the dark (sexy) side", I tend to flip out and in the end, I would rather write them in English, because for me, it seems too much when it is written in Bahasa Indonesia. But, I know that is only my assumption. Language is a language, a tool in communicate and nothing is superlative and comparative to one or another. Yet, this writer helps to learn to deliver better.
The writer is also referring a lot to Indonesian classic, as the main characters were named after greatest traditional couples name, and the story line is inspired by the classic. As soon as I finish, it makes me want to read more of Serat Centhini, an Indonesian classic which (sort of) suggests hidden feminine desire.
I also admire the writer's knowledge and commitment to put this story together, because I know this is not easy. I would really want to know where she gets her inspiration from, what drives her to write this story. Reading this book will expand your knowledge and sensitivity and most importantly dark secret which remains unanswered. So, this one is a highly-recommended book.
I cannot say more. Again, for the writer, your book deserves better than this lousy review.
And the last, I wish as I am aging, probably when I am hitting forty, I wish I can be as passionate and curious as Laksmi. Because I am sure that this book will not be published if there is not a longing curiosity and passion that lives inside the writer's heart. Someday, I wish I can write something that delivers and educates, although it might not be as selling as pop books, my book might be on the clearance section on the bookstore, but it's alright by then. Because I know, I have already been able to pour my heart out..