In the Shadow of the Banyan
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In the Shadow of the Banyan

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4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  7,162 ratings  ·  1,417 reviews
For seven-year-old Raami, the shattering end of childhood begins with the footsteps of her father returning home in the early dawn hours bringing details of the civil war that has overwhelmed the streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. Soon the family’s world of carefully guarded royal privilege is swept up in the chaos of revolution and forced exodus.

Over the next four...more
Hardcover, 322 pages
Published August 7th 2012 by Simon & Schuster (first published September 1st 2010)
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Julie
Feb 01, 2013 Julie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Julie by: Jill
To render historical, political fiction in the voice and through the eyes of a young child, a writer sets herself a tremendous challenge and takes on great risk. Children are naturally fanciful, unreliable creatures - not dishonest, but only able to offer the truth as their immature brains can grasp and explain it. When the story is revealed as the author's own, the reader feels compelled to accept a fictionalized account as mere degrees of separation from the truth.

What Vaddey Ratner has accom...more
Tania
Feb 03, 2014 Tania rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Tania by: Tonya
I didn't know so much sadness could exist in so small a place

This must be one of the most exquisitely written books I've read in a long time. It's based on the authors own experience during the regime of Cambodia's Khymer Rouge. There is a few things that stands out and makes this different to other war/genocide books I've read. Firstly, the first part of the book is very slow and focuses on the beauty rather than the impending horror. At first I didn't understand, but closer to the end I realiz...more
Martha
This novel was slow going for me. This was a story the author admits is pretty much her own, of a childhood derailed and torn apart by the Revolution in Cambodia in the 1970s. As a sheltered and privileged child, she and her family are particularly vulnerable and very much unaware of what is brewing around them as they are evacuated from Phnom Penh and sent off to become farm laborers. Maybe it's just that she writes it a little too carefully, hanging on to people and moments a beat too long, f...more
Jennifer Rayment
The Good Stuff

Heartbreaking - this story will haunt you long after you have read it
The prose is so exquisite and beautifully written, such talent for first time author
It is hard for me to express how spectacular this book is, everything I want to say sounds trite when compared to the beauty of the authors words and the horror she lived through
Raami is such a strong girl, one to be admired for her strength of character and her ability to transcend the horrific tragedy she lived through and to...more
Carol
In the Shadow of the Banyan will be published August 7th by Simon & Schuster. My sincere thanks for the opportunity to read this in e-galley format.

With a poetic voice, Ratner plunges us into this personal trial of a royal family wrenched from their home in Phnon Penh, Cambodia, during the late seventies; a time of revolution. Robbed of her childhood, the narrator, seven year old Raami, brings us on this horrific displacement as she and her family endure homelessness, hunger, hard labor and...more
Karen
I visited Siem Reap as part of a 3 week trip to Southeast Asia in April 2012. I found the people of Siem Reap to be kind, warm, friendly and incredibly interested in America. When we would tell them we are from the DC area (Potomac MD) they wanted to know more. The country is rebuilding at break neck pace, but in its.midst are children who don't go to school and are put to work to help the family earn money. My daughter paid what they considered to be a "hefty fine" at the border because she did...more
Chrissie
I finished this last night. Yes, it was well done. Probably the reason I liked it was that it is based on the author's experiences, from which she has crafted her novel. I thought the end was better than the beginning. The end very well depicted the horrors and the supreme idiocy of the Khmer Rouge regime. The tamer beginning reflects the innocence of the young girl, which is not inappropriate. She was at the beginning only seven! In reality, the author was only five.

The traditional Cambodian cu...more
Connie
It sends chills through me when I think about the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge when they gained control in Cambodia in 1975. Vaddey Ratner wrote a fictional story that was based on her family's actual experiences.

Raami was a seven-year-old girl living a life of privilege as the daughter of a prince. Her father was a poet who loved telling her traditional fables, which emotionally helped her after she had polio as a one-year-old. Her father told Raami, "When I thought you couldn't walk...more
Thomas
As a senior in high school, it scares me that I didn't know how to properly pronounce "Khmer Rogue" before reading this book. Even worse was my ignorance of Cambodia's history in the late 1970's - the genocide that took place serves as a lesser-known Holocaust, the horrors these people endured similar to that of the Jews.

In the Shadow of the Banyan follows seven-year-old Raami as she witnesses the communist regime take everything away from her. Through her eyes Vaddey Ratner displays the evocati...more
Ellen
Based on the author’s experiences as a young child in the Khmer Rouge’s Cambodia in the 1970’s, this novel contrasts the worst in human behavior with the astonishing ability to dream of better times. Despite loss and starvation, forced labor and wanton cruelty, young Raami never gives up her belief in the power of stories to save us, the power of words as wings.

One thought, and I wonder if any other readers had this reaction. I really enjoyed reading this book, although enjoyed is not quite the...more
Rose
How can a book break your heart & make your heart soar all at once? How can certain passages be of a horrific nature & yet be written in such a beautiful way that you must go back & re-read them? I don't know how, but this book does that. A story about the Cambodian genocide and all the tragedies that came from the Khmer Rouge coming into power in 1975, it is nontheless a beautiful book. The subject matter is heartbreaking & disturbing, reading about the true evil some people pos...more
bbbbbbrr
This is interesting and somewhat informative as a semi-autobiographical narrative of living through the khmer-rouge takeover of Cambodia in the 70's. As a novel it doesn't fare so well. I found myself skimming most chapters to extract an ok story from a swamp of flowery prose. The content-to-fluff ratio is about 1:3 most of the time, with occasional stretches of more focused story telling. It's not bad fluff as the stuff goes, and if it's your kind of thing then it may heighten your appreciation...more
loretta
In 1975, when my own daughter was 7 years old, the Khmer Rouge overthrew the government of Cambodia and the life of 7 year old Raami was forever changed.

'In the Shadow of the Banyan' is an exquisitely written book about that dark time in history. From 1975-1979, the country's people endured incomprehensible horror and systematic genocide. 1975 is no longer- the revolutionaries have declared it Year Zero.

When Raami and her family are ousted from their home, they begin the trek which will take th...more
Nancy (NE)
“They say mine is a ravaged land,
Scarred and broken by hate-
On a path to self-extermination,
Yet no other place
So resembles my dream of heaven.
The lotus fields that cradle my home.
Each flower a reincarnated spirit-
Or perhaps, like me,
A child who wishes to be reborn
Should dreams become possible again.
It’s true mine is a life of poverty
My home a half-built thatched hut,
Its walls the winds and rains.”


In The Shadow Of The Banyan is a remarkable work of fiction based on the author’s real life experien...more
Cynthia
Ratner’s use of language and imagery is exquisite. As I told a friend I found myself reading slowly, dreading what fresh horror would appear on the next page. “In the Shadow of the Banyan” is set during the Khmer Rouge revolution. I’m sure most people are aware that during the mid 70’s these communists took power and subjugated their fellow Cambodians. Raami comes from the royal family who were especially hated by the Communists because their learning and their strong sense of self made them a t...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Ratner tells us in her author's note that "Raami's story is in essence my own." This is a novel about love and survival and the power of stories. Raami is just seven-years-old when the novel begins, when the Khmer Rouge comes to power. The murderous regime over the course of four years was responsible for as many as two million deaths, wiping out about a third of the Cambodian population in their attempts to establish a communist utopia.

The story is described in blurbs as "lyrical." I thought a...more
Jill
It is a few hours since I turned the last pages of this haunting and powerful novel, and I am still trembling from its nearly unbearable power. Such is the power of Vaddey Ratner’s story telling.

And it is story telling that is at the core of this book. At one point, Ms. Ratner reflects, “A story, I had learned, through my own constant knitting and re-knitting of remembered words, can lead us back to ourselves, to our lost innocence, and in the shadow it casts over our present world, we begin to...more
Sarah
In preparation for our trip to Cambodia and the Killing Fields near Phnom Penh I read three books: In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner, First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung, and When Glass Floats by Chanrithy Him. Each of the three books was about a young girl who, with their families, suffered under the Khmer Rouge communist regime and their genocide campaign.

The Khmer Rouge took control of Phnom Penh, its last obstacle to ruling all of Cambodia, on April 17th, 1975. They turned t...more
Eileen Granfors
A tragic tale of the Cambodian diaspora, told with grace.

This seems to be my summer to read about the horrors of revolutionaries and genocide.

"In the Shadow of the Banyan," which I won as a Goodreads giveaway, tells the story of one family's "re-education" and relocation when Cambodia fell to the Khmer Rouge.

The book is narrated by Vatti, the daughter of a prince. Because of their high status, they fear the most from the Revolutionary army.

Ratner takes us from the chaos of the emptying of Phnom...more
Paul Pessolano
“In the Shadow of the Banyan” by Vaddey Ratner, published by Simon & Schuster.

Category – Fiction/Literature

The reviews of this book have been excellent and I could not wait to read it.

The story is fiction but relies heavily on the real life experiences of the author. A young girl in Cambodia who comes from an affluent family finds her life completely turned around when the Khmer Rouge come into power. Her family is up rooted from their home, and is transferred to several different villages...more
Louise
Story Description:

Simon & Schuster|August 7, 2012|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-1-4516-5770-8

You are about to read an extraordinary story. It will take you to the very depths of despair and show you unspeakable horrors. It will reveal a gorgeously rich culture struggling to survive through a furtive bow, a hidden ankle bracelet, fragments of remembered poetry. It will ensure that the world never forgets the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979, when an estim...more
Diane S.
The killing fields of Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge in power from 1975-1979 before the Vietnamese drove them out, by this time one to two million Cambodians were either killed, starved to death or committed suicide. Raami is seven, her father a prince and a poet who has instilled in her a love for stories and words, which he told her would give her wings and allow her to see the beauty in even the ugliest things.
a the start of this, when they are herded into the streets and taken from camp to camp,...more
Chaitra
I didn't give this a perfect rating. I did love this book, but there were a few things that sort of bothered me. I'll start with the positives. The setting, Cambodia from 1975-1979, the Khmer Rouge revolution. I've never read anything from this period set in this country, and only had the vaguest of ideas about Pol Pot's reign of terror. I really liked that I could read about it from a person who was there, and experienced the same thing as the little girl in the book did. (The author is Raami.)...more
Terri Trujillo dunlap
This book is beautifully written and absolutely heartbreaking. The atrocities of the Cambodian killing fields are portrayed so personally but balanced with finding good and beauty in the world all through the eyes of a seven year old girl. The story is a fictionalized memoir and the author states that nothing happened in the book that she didn't experience herself. I highly recommend this book. I know it will stay with me for a very long time.
Deborah Gray
This memoir, written as novel, chronicled the author's four years as a young child (1975 to 1979) during the reign of terror of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime. For the Cambodian people it was their own Holocaust as they experienced unspeakable horrors at the hands of these so-called revolutionaries, and close to 1/3 of the entire population was murdered or died of starvation. Just as with the American liberators of the concentration camps of Europe, the Vietnamese who rescued them could not belie...more
Emily Crowe
So basically, I'm reading genocide with a genocide chaser! I recently finished Running the Rift, which is a story of the Rwanda genocide, and now I'm about to immerse myself in this one, which is a story of the Khmer Rouge. (About which I know next-to-nothing, so in addition to a novel, I'll be getting a history lesson.)

...Many months later, I finally finish the book. Not because it wasn't good enough to finish quickly, but because lots of RL situations reared their ugly heads and I put it down...more
Sonja Arlow
This semi-autobiographical novel is based on the invasion of the Khmer Rough in Cambodia during the 1970’s. Although it contains beautifully graphic descriptions of scenery and the Cambodian folklore I really struggled to connect with this book.

The story was told mainly in metaphorical flowery prose by a narrator whose voice didn’t ring true. No 7 year old child, no matter how precocious, could remember so much detail or draw such poignant connections and observations of her surroundings. Perha...more
Suzanne

This memoir of a girl, a princess, whose family, home, way of life is destroyed during the Communist Cambodian revolution did not sweep me away. It did remind me or Weisel's Night, which I find more effecting .

Certainly the narrator's, Raami's story , is devastating for her and her fellow Cambodians. She, and her countrymen, are separated from their loved ones, their culture, their religion, and their belongings. The wealthy, the intellectuals , the city people are removed and relocated and re e...more
Brooke
I received this book through goodreads giveaways!!

The language in this book is beyond beautifully written! It's a story about a fathers love for his daughter and the mythical stories he told that ended up saving her life. It's a remarkable and tragic story set in Cambodia during the civil war with a little seven year old girl named Raami as the main character. I think being a child played to her advantage at this horrific time in history, because she was able to still see glimpses of beauty in...more
Irene
Based on the author’s own childhood, this is a heart-breaking and inspiring story. The daughter of a wealthy, foreign educated minor noble family, the narrator’s happy and comfortable childhood is suddenly and violently disrupted as the Khmer Rouge take over Cambodia. They are forcibly driven from their estate, sent into internal exile, condemned to forced labor and endure starvation, execution and terror. The love of family, the power of story, the indestructible conviction that hope will preva...more
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Chicks On Lit: In the Shadow of the Banyan 24 52 Aug 20, 2013 04:54PM  
The Little Intern...: Storytelling 5 5 Jul 31, 2013 05:30PM  
The Little Intern...: * First Impressions after Reading 2 7 Jul 31, 2013 03:19PM  
The Little Intern...: About the Author 4 6 Jul 30, 2013 12:26PM  
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5332020
Vaddey Ratner was five years old when the Khmer Rouge came to power in 1975. In 1981, she arrived in the U.S. as a refugee not knowing English and, in 1990, went on to graduate as her high school class valedictorian. She is a summa cum laude graduate of Cornell University, where she specialized in Southeast Asian history and literature. In recent years she traveled and lived in Cambodia and Southe...more
More about Vaddey Ratner...
Simon & Schuster 2012 Fiction Sampler

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“You can dig a hole in my heart and bury all your sadness. I'll be your grave.” 8 likes
“words, you see," he said, looking at me again, "allow us to make permanent what is essentially transient.Turn a world filled with injustice and hurt into a place that is beautiful and lyrical.” 8 likes
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