Good Reading : March 2008
The Road of Lost Innocence Somaly Mam In Cambodia and throughout South- east Asia, tens of thousands of children, some as young as five or six, are forced into prostitution every year. They are raped, beaten and killed. At least one in forty girls bor n in Cambodia today will be sold into sex slavery. These horrifying statistics form the basis of the true story of Somaly Mam. She was abandoned as a baby, taken into the custody of a cruel man she called ‘grandfather’, raped at twelve, forced into mar riage at fifteen then sold to a brothel. After years of abuse, she managed to escape. The very fact that she survived the brutality and trauma of her experiences is a testament to the courage and tenacity of this brave woman. In 1996 she founded a charity to help prostitutes, AFESIP, a temporary safe haven for girls where they’re taught to read and write, plus cooking, weaving and hairdressing skills.Three thousand victims of prostitution have been helped in the last ten years, but funding is a continual problem. Cambodia is in a state of moral bankruptcy, with corruption in the police and legal systems. Read this harrowing tale and weep for the innocent children sold into this per nicious industry. ★★★ Virago $29.95 Reviewed by Jan Germain Beijing Confidential Jan Wong At the height of China’s Cultural Revolution, author Jan Wong was one of a handful of foreigners allowed to study in Beijing.When an acquaintance told her in confidence that she wanted to emigrate to America, Wong infor med the authorities. For thirty years, the great wrong she had committed plagued her. Giving the infor mation to the police and ruining another person’s life affected Wong so much that she determined to return to the Forbidden City, find the friend and make amends. This is the central theme of Beijing Confidential. But it’s also a book defining three significant changes which reflect the history and culture of our moder n world. Beijing, which Wong grew to love in the days when it was the centre of Maoism, was then one of the world’s most ancient cities, with posters of ‘Long Live Chair man Mao’ festooned everywhere; now, it’s one of the most modern, with Americana everywhere. Wong herself, travelling from deep regret for her unconscionable act, achieves redemption when she again meets her friend and realises that she did little to affect the woman’s future. The third change is the victim’s transformation from the disgrace of offending Chair man Mao to respect- ability and wealth in moder n China. An excellent book, both as a non-fiction thriller and a history of our times. ★★★★HarperCollins $32.99 Reviewed by Alan Gold The World At War — The Landmark Oral History Richard Holmes The television series from which this book derives its name was one of the outstanding pres- entations of the early 1970s, attempting to depict the stories and experiences of World War II from as many different perspectives as possible. As must be imagined, the amount of infor mation gathered from archives, special footage and interviews was prodigious, and only a small fraction made it onto the television screen. Holmes was allowed access to all the materials gathered (and now stored at the Imperial War Museum) for the series, and has used them to present a perhaps broader context, giving more ‘time’ to some individuals and situations than was originally aired, as well as bringing to the reader’s attention the voices of many whose words never made it to the screen. ‘The World at War’ was originally levised at the height f the Cold War, which nfluenced and coloured hat production to a ertain extent; Holmes was under no such tricture. One doesn’t need to have seen the original television series o understand and perhaps (from a certain perspective) ‘enjoy’ this nar rative, but reading this broad-ranging and often horrifying account should certainly motivate you to (re-)aquaint yourself with the visual record that accompanies the words in these pages. Lest We Forget! ★★★★ Ebury Press $79.95 Reviewed by Brooke Walker word of mouth biography / memoir Bolinda makes it big. Check out our entire Large Print range at www.bolinda.com or call us on 1300 782 547 Large Print gift subscriptions also available. Something delivered each month to the one you love.