Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Review of Southeast Asia Quartet

I'm featuring another book review by Pat Browning today. Hope you enjoy it.

Kindle E-book 2012
Picture this: A dinner party at the residence of the American Deputy Chief of Mission in Singapore . Guests are Robbie Cutler, fresh from the basic diplomatic course at the Foreign Service Institute in Arlington , Virginia ; James McLarty, Third Secretary from the British High Commission; French Vice Consul Etienne Marigot and his wife, Suzanne; Russian trade attaché Basil Kamirkoff; and Emily Brook, a teacher at the American International School .
When talk turns to Singapore ’s wealth of material for writers and storytellers, Basil says: “After all, we are Russian, French, British (don’t quibble McLarty!), and American. That covers the greats of short story writing ... Chekhov, Maupassant, Maugham and O.Henry. I propose we start a story club, here and now."
That’s the setup for four intriguing stories that may be partly imaginary but are rooted in truth.
Robbie spins a tale of a love triangle and a murderous rage fueled by the fruit of the durian tree, a popular but ugly, foul-smelling fruit said to be a great aphrodisiac.
McLarty and Emily share the story of a climbing expedition up Mount Kinabulu in Borneo, and of exploring Kinabalu National Park . The park is home to the tree-dwelling great ape, the Orang Utan, "an animal that shares 97% of homo sapiens' DNA." The heart of McLarty’s story is his dream of an encounter with a family of Orang Utans.
Marigot’s story takes us back to 1954 and the fall of Dien Bien Phu, which sounds the death knell for French colonialism. Years later, when Marigot is about 10 years old, a T’ai woman shows up at his grandparents’ house with personal items left by Marigot’s grandfather when he escaped from VietNam. The family welcomes her. Grandfather Marigot’s poignant story, which his family hears for the first time, reveals the utter madness of war.
Basil tells the legendary story of Jim Thompson, the “Thai silk king.” Thompson was an OSS officer in World War II, later a CIA agent and finally a Bangkok businessman. In 1967 he went on holiday with friends to the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia . One afternoon he walked into the jungle to look for rare orchids and was never heard from again.
Basil takes the story that far, and leaves it up to the other storytellers to offer their opinions on what really happened to Jim Thompson. That’s a real-life guessing game that still continues.
Jim Thompson’s house is a national museum, and two YouTube videos portray his life and legacy. There are gorgeous photos of his house and a dinner party/reception, scenes of silk weavers at work in the Thai Silk Company and tourists shopping for silk.
YouTube URLs:
Jim Thompson - The Man and the Legend Part 1
Jim Thompson – The Man and the Legend Part 2
Review by Pat Browning