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In the Shadow of the Banyan

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4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  10,503 ratings  ·  1,780 reviews
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 Cambodi ...more
ebook, 336 pages
Published August 7th 2012 by Simon & Schuster (first published January 1st 2010)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Julie
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
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
Tania
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
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
Didi
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
☔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
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.
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
Joshua Buhs
Jul 05, 2013 Joshua Buhs rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  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
...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
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
...more
Jess
What an incredible book. I am so glad my fiance bought this one for me for Christmas, because I'll admit, this isn't something I ordinarily would have picked up on my own. The writing is hauntingly beautiful, and Raami's story is heartbreaking & hopeful. This was one of those books that I couldn't stop thinking about when I wasn't reading it, and I know (now that I've finished) it's a book that will stay with me for quite some time.
Kamil
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
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
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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...
Simon & Schuster 2012 Fiction Sampler

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“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.” 15 likes
“We are all echoes of one another, Raami” 14 likes
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