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In the Shadow of the Banyan

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4.03  ·  Rating Details  ·  12,235 Ratings  ·  1,932 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
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Hardcover, 322 pages
Published August 7th 2012 by Simon & Schuster (first published January 1st 2010)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Julie
Feb 01, 2013 Julie rated it really liked it
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
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Martha
Oct 25, 2012 Martha rated it liked it
Shelves: debut-novels
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
Tania
Sep 12, 2014 Tania rated it really liked it
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
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Jennifer Rayment
Jul 31, 2012 Jennifer Rayment rated it it was amazing
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
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Didi
May 28, 2014 Didi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read In the Shadow of the Banyan at the beginning of the month. It took me three and a half days to read but then plunged me into a week + worth of thought. We’re nearing the close of the month of May and I still can’t get this book off my mind. I figure my reading for the month of May was all worth it because I had the pleasure of experiencing my second 5 star book of the year 2014. Now if you’ve been following me here or over at frenchiedee you know that I absolutely don’t have a habit of gi ...more
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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
Jill
Mar 27, 2015 Jill rated it it was amazing
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
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Rose
Jul 01, 2012 Rose rated it it was amazing
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
Carol
Jul 29, 2012 Carol rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, debut
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
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Chrissie
Mar 30, 2014 Chrissie rated it really liked it
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
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Karen
Dec 31, 2012 Karen rated it it was amazing
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
Thomas
Feb 24, 2013 Thomas rated it really liked it
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
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Ellen
Mar 20, 2012 Ellen rated it liked it
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
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loretta
Mar 02, 2013 loretta rated it it was amazing
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
Connie
Feb 21, 2014 Connie rated it really liked it
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
Nancy (NE)
Jul 01, 2013 Nancy (NE) rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
“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
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Kamil
Jan 23, 2016 Kamil rated it really liked it
In the shadow of the banyan tells a tragic story of Cambodian royal family members under Khmer Rouge regime. It's told from the perspective of 7 year old Rami, daughter of Cambodian prince Ayuravan Sisowath. Vaddey Ratner, the author, is the only child of Cambodian prince of the same name that survived Khmer Rouge imprisoment. To give the voice of the one that were lost during one of the most radical and savage social experiments in the world, she decided to do it through fiction instead of memo ...more
Cynthia
Aug 08, 2012 Cynthia rated it really liked it
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
Paul Pessolano
Aug 03, 2012 Paul Pessolano rated it it was ok
“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
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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
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Sarah
May 10, 2013 Sarah rated it really liked it
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
Diane S ☔
Jul 29, 2012 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it
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,
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Sonja Arlow
Dec 10, 2014 Sonja Arlow rated it it was ok
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
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Joyce
Dec 14, 2015 Joyce rated it it was amazing
Remarkable story telling and more. This is a story of a young girl in Cambodia when revolutionaries overtook the country, creating chaos, fear, displacing millions from their homes, separating families, forcing the population to work like slaves, starving and killing people for the slightest infraction or just because. Under the worst possible cruel conditions, could there possibly be a reason to keep on living.

I almost didn't read this book knowing that it would be sad. And it was, but it was
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Terri Trujillo dunlap
May 23, 2013 Terri Trujillo dunlap rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-club
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.
Louise
Aug 19, 2012 Louise rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoirs
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
Joshua Buhs
Jul 05, 2013 Joshua Buhs rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who liked Mischa Berlinski's Field Notes.
Recommended to Joshua by: Target
I start from a strange place, a review of Barbara Kingsolver's 'Poisonwood Bible' in The New Republic. It has stayed with me for a long time as an appropriate critique of a strain of contemporary fiction. Unfortunately, upon googling it, I see the review was written by Lee Siegel and so is tainted (TNR, "Sweet and Low," March 1999). Maybe the same is true of this review. Maybe it is crabbed and mean and useless.

Siegel argued that Kingsolver set her books above criticism by choosing protagonists
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Carol
Mar 17, 2013 Carol rated it it was ok
The biggest problem in "In the Shadow of the Banyan" is the seven year old girl, Raami, narrating a story in the words of an adult woman. Raami is consistently viewing the world through an adult's eyes, verbalizing observations that go well beyond a child's level of understanding. It's not that she necessarily realizes things that a child wouldn't be aware of, rather that she describes them so specifically, spelling them out for the reader. It's a tactic that is both condescending for a mature r ...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
Donna
Feb 03, 2015 Donna rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. I loved this book. I loved this book. It is definitely in my top 10. I loved the writing, the story, the characters....it all worked for me. I will be ordering my own copy on Amazon so that I can read it again and again.

I was completely attached to the characters. They weren't overly sappy or down. It felt like the right mix. I loved the father. What a good and wise dad. I also felt for the mother. The descriptive strokes were elevated in such a vivid and understandable way. I
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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...

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“We are all echoes of one another, Raami” 19 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.” 16 likes
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