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Holiday in Cambodia

3.63  ·  Rating Details ·  76 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
Beyond the killing fields and the temples of Angkor is Cambodia: a country with a genocidal past and a wide, open smile. A frontier land where anything is possible - at least for the tourists.

In Holiday in Cambodia Laura Jean McKay explores the electric zone where local and foreign lives meet.

Three backpackers board a train, ignoring the danger signs - and find themselves
Paperback, 216 pages
Published June 26th 2013 by Black Inc.
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Michael Livingston
Jan 06, 2014 Michael Livingston rated it really liked it
A collection of short stories thematically linked by their setting (Cambodia). The writing is incisive and precise, and some stories are hugely affecting (the first in particular will stay with you). It's strongest when dealing with the interaction between the West and Cambodia, but it's all very compelling.
Angela Savage
Holiday in Cambodia was not what I expected. Taking its title from a 1980 song by the Dead Kennedys, I assumed the collection would focus on the foreign tourist experience -- a kind of literary travelogue. But while tourists do feature in a couple of stories, these are a long way from travelogue. 'Route Four', in which three foolish backpackers take a train through Khmer Rouge held territory, can be read as a metaphor for the dangers of tourism for local people; while 'Taxi' is an ugly, if eeril ...more
Jan 12, 2014 Angela rated it really liked it
Laura Jean McKay is a fabulous young Australian author whose personality and experience spill from the pages of this short story collection. I met Laura when she ran a Short Story Workshop at the Wheeler Center in Melbourne. She is approachable and kind as a teacher, not to mention knowledgeable in her approach to creative writing.

The stories in this book focus on Cambodia and it's goings-on, whether it be in the lives of locals, tourists or those who find themselves in this complicated land for
Kirsten Krauth
Apr 21, 2014 Kirsten Krauth rated it really liked it
I first came across Laura Jean McKay’s collection of short stories Holiday in Cambodia when I was researching new books set in the region, inspired by Walter Mason’s Destination Cambodia. After a brief trip there in 2005, it’s a country I have remained fascinated with. I wrote voraciously about it at the time (must fossick for that notebook!) and remember, at the end of each day travelling, being exhilarated and exhausted by the conflicting imagery — the gut-wrenching violence of the Killing Fie ...more
Oct 30, 2013 Philipc rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
McKay writes with a great economy and precision, and clearly has a special empathy for Cambodia.

Most of the 17 stories of “Holiday” (title from the 1980 Dead Kennedys song) are set in the modern day, with a few between 1951 and 1994. Individual stories are linked by more than just the Cambodian setting – the 1951 vampire-Lolita of The Deep Ambition of Rossi, scheming her way into Prince Sihanouk’s bed, blood dribbling down her chin, reappears as the modern-day Susan from Australia, syringe in h
Anna Spargo-Ryan
Mar 16, 2014 Anna Spargo-Ryan rated it really liked it
Holiday in Cambodia is a collection of short stories, all set in Cambodia, and all giving different insights into the place that it is. It is described by the publisher as “explor[ing] the electric zone where local and foreign lives meet,” and that is exactly how I felt when reading it. There are brief intersections between characters from different stories, but for the most part, each one stands alone as a fully-realised piece. McKay’s ability to shift voice to create distinct stories is magic. ...more
Nov 25, 2013 Tina rated it it was ok
I was so excited to read this book. The title is taken from a Dead Kennedys song - can't go wrong there. And I travelled to Cambodia a few years back and really loved the country and the people. Unfortunately, I found the book disappointing though. I've never been a huge fan of short stories. It always feels like they're just about to start when they stop - and this really lived up to that presumption. Some of the stories were very short, some were very confusing and some just didn't make much s ...more
James Tierney
Jul 10, 2013 James Tierney rated it really liked it
Conversations tinged with memories of Cambodia's catastrophic past - See more at:
Lou Heinrich
Aug 11, 2013 Lou Heinrich rated it it was amazing
God, I love this book! I'm not big on short stories but they were so purposeful as snapshots of cultures and lives. The pieces were emotionally heavy and there was so much poetry in the prose. So good!
Janine Job
Oct 28, 2013 Janine Job rated it it was amazing
Beautiful book. Evocative. Distilled stories told in a compelling clear sharp fresh way. Each totally different in subject and style. I was there too, with the words in the story.
Oct 11, 2013 Becky rated it really liked it
Absolutely awesome. Brilliant Aussie author.
Dec 14, 2013 Tina rated it liked it
Bold, haunting stories.
John Sheahan
May 29, 2014 John Sheahan rated it really liked it
I had the pleasure of meeting Laura Jean (LJM) at a literary in Wagga Wagga on my recent trip to the Riverina and attending a workshop she ran for writers. She is vivacious and intense. The same may be said of her writing.
As the title suggests, these 17 short stories are set in Cambodia, but they span decades – the earliest seem to be in the 1950s and the most recent are in the present – and include 1969 (Vietnam War) and 1994 (post-Pol Pot). The title also suggests something of the First Worl
Oct 21, 2014 K rated it really liked it
Shelves: asia
I stumbled across this while looking for a holiday read, and then didn't put it down all day. It was incredibly interesting, a series of short stories or vignettes about holidays in Cambodia or Cambodian times. It did past, present, and even (I think) a future, which was something I had never encountered before. There were things about Khmer culture, Khmer Rouge, present day bar girls, ghosts, fortune, and a host of nods to pieces of the Cambodia that I know and love. Some stories were sad, some ...more
Jul 18, 2014 Lisa rated it liked it
Well, actually I've only read two of the stories because *a-hem* I'm one of those readers who prefers the longer form of a novel. (See the review by Kirsten Krauth below.)
But because I've visited Cambodia, I was attracted by the title, and brought it home from the library not realising it was a collection of short stories.
So I'm just here to say that the first two stories were interesting to read and the writing was very good indeed, and so if you like short stories, you'll probably enjoy this c
Sep 11, 2015 Sarah rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-pieces
Holiday in Cambodia is a collection of short stories written by Australian author Laura Jean McKay. All the stories are set in Cambodia & each one gives a glimpse into a different part of Cambodian life. These stories are dark, raw and confrontational. Many stories deal with Cambodian life in the aftermath of the civil war. The stories also examine the way that Western culture clashes with Cambodian. This has definitely made me want to learn more about Cambodia.
Barbara Dawson
Mar 30, 2014 Barbara Dawson rated it liked it
Jan 15, 2017 Nancy rated it liked it
Good writing but disturbing and often found stories hard to follow. Confirmed that I almost certainly would not like to visit Cambodia.
May 11, 2014 Sonja rated it really liked it
Quite simply that this book of short stories does a sensational job of withholding, of giving just enough insight, character development and storyline to get you hooked, so hooked in fact that you want more, you want the stories to go on, only they don’t. They stop. Often quite abruptly. Which, for me, only added to their appeal. I liked that there wasn’t a focus on providing an excess of detail and character emotions, that there was a holding back, which allowed me to engage more fully with the ...more
Feb 06, 2015 Yarra rated it did not like it
I did not like this book. It consists of different stories that, basically, do not say anything. It is all just describing different activities without meaningful ending. Characters are empty shells, with no psychological or emotional descriptions. The title is very deceiving. Although it is situated in Cambodia and mentions its history, people and society, you do not get any specific feeling that it is situated in Asia. I was trying to finish reading, but it was not easy, and I just skipped ove ...more
Andrew Tattersall
Apr 07, 2016 Andrew Tattersall rated it liked it
A series of vignettes about Cambodia from the late 40's or early 50's "a country where one might find a peaceful future." to nowish. I enjoyed the two historical stories the most as I felt a clear sense of place in them. For me, the futuristic one didn't work as it had no sense of place and I enjoyed reading the modern set stories but was not sure all of them worked. There were one or two where I wanted to know more about what happened to the characters, but isn't that the definition of a good n ...more
Kai Crawford
Nov 12, 2015 Kai Crawford rated it really liked it
I haven't read many short story anthologies but this one was fantastic. I loved the common theme of Cambodia tying together different races, time periods, and perspectives. McKay's writing style was sobering, humorous, and sometimes surreal.
Favourite stories:
The Expatriate
A Thousand Cobs of Corn
Congratulations on Your Happy Day
Jan 19, 2017 Jane rated it it was ok
Got this book to read on my holiday to Cambodia hoping it would give me some insight into the country. Most of the stories made no senses and there was no clue to when or where they were set and no introduction to the characters. The story set in the future was just silly!
Dec 26, 2015 Roxanne rated it really liked it
Survivor was in Cambodia this year so I wanted to learn more about the country. This is more like little stories of traveling.
John Wesley
John Wesley rated it it was amazing
Nov 04, 2013
Revelly Robinson
Revelly Robinson rated it did not like it
Nov 11, 2014
Kendra rated it it was ok
Jul 24, 2013
Zannawho rated it really liked it
Jul 17, 2014
Bianca rated it liked it
Mar 02, 2014
Lexine U.
Lexine U. rated it liked it
Jul 27, 2015
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Laura Jean McKay is the author of Holiday in Cambodia, a short story collection that explores the electric zone where local and foreign lives meet. Holiday in Cambodia was shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Literary Award 2014, the Queensland Literary Award 2014 and The Asher Award 2015 for women writing on an anti-war theme.

Laura’s writing has been published in The Best Australian Stories, Award
More about Laura Jean McKay...

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