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3.65  ·  Rating Details  ·  252 Ratings  ·  49 Reviews
'Kalimantaan' - the old name for Borneo - tells of the founding of a small empire by an extraordinary man and a handful of his followers. Within 10 years Gideon Barr conquers an area the size of England and Wales, but the personal cost is enormous.
Published (first published 1998)
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Robert Martin
Apr 02, 2012 Robert Martin is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Ms. Godshalk is a most frustrating writer. Not only is her plotline opaque and desultory, her use of personal pronouns is confounding. One never knows who the referent is without a lot of work. All of this is worsened by the many exotic words/terms she uses without explanation.
This is sad especially because clearly she has a wonderful feel for the terrain, a feel I wanted to so much to enjoy but which eluded me in the thicket of peculiar vocabulary. I think there is a literary conceit here, a k
Feb 01, 2008 Marlene rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating; a mood of brooding mystery and impending catastrophe is established from the very first pages.

This book fails to receive my highest rating only because of the author's style which often leaves the antecedents of her pronouns unclear. Also, the glossary of foreign words could have been considerably enlarged; I often found myself consulting it to no avail.
Mindy McAdams
Beautiful and lush, complex, mysterious, frightening -- the book is much like Borneo itself. It's not an easy place to visit, let alone to know. If you have a little familiarity with the history, I think you will go deep into this book, like the jungle, and succumb to its charms and incantations.

When I was in Sarawak, I resisted all traces of the so-called white rajahs. I felt disgusted by colonization, greedy trade practices and the subjugation of native groups. In every bookshop in that state
Mar 02, 2011 Kataklicik rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book deserves another star. Really. The plot is good, the writing is good. So why have I given it 4 and not 5 stars?

Because it needs finesse-ing. Really. You need to get over the horribly confusing amd disorienting 40-50 initial pages before you get to the good stuff (which literally then captures you and sweeps you away). Then you need to get over the myriad of Malay / Iban words that are NOT included in the glossary at the end of the book (you really DO need to understand these words to f
Dec 17, 2010 Felice rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kalimantaan is based on the true story of Sir James Brooke. Brooke was an adventurer who two hundred years ago acquired/seized a kingdom, Sarawak, roughly the size of England on the northern coast of Borneo. Borneo is an island in the Pacific that is part of the Malay Archipelago. Brooke and his followers ruled Sarawak for approximately one hundred years. Brooke's exploits have already been fictionalized at least once before that I am aware of in Joseph Conrad's Lord Jim.

In Kalimantaan, Brooke
Sep 27, 2007 Karl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The first 20 pages are a tough slog while you figure out who some of the characters are, via letters. You might want to write down a few of the names and the relationships to orient yourself, until you pass through that section and get to the main story. After that, this is one of maybe the top 20 books I've read. Gorgeous, lush prose. If you're interested in SE Asia (esp. Malaysian Borneo), you have to read this. Novelization of actual history of the Bornean White Rajahs.
Apr 04, 2015 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"If he had reflected on his position at that (any) moment, on the absurdity of it, it might have created a vacuum in which the whole edifice would have collapsed on his head. He did not reflect." Kalimantaan is the tale of a boy making his life, and incidentally is also the story of leadership and followership in society. He set out with a vision of the king he would become, and in naiveté blundered along clueless, too ignorant to be fearful, but fortunate. And he pursued it with such speed that ...more
This is one of my quickest rejects ever. About five pages. I kept thinking, if the writing doesn't get more direct and transparent soon, I'm outta here, and I am. Too bad, because the theme -- an actual kingdom set up by a white settler in Borneo -- was fascinating.
Apr 30, 2011 Rob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful. Gives a real insight into an almost unknown world.
Dara Salley
Aug 06, 2014 Dara Salley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a colonialist novel written in the modern day, with post-colonialist concepts firmly in place. If that sounds a little confusing, it was. Godshalk writes in the voice of a 19th century explorer very convincingly. There are various gritty details that betray the modernity of the author. There is information about feminine hygiene and sexual relations that would not have been included in a true 1800’s novel. That is one of Godshalk’s goals, to allow the reader to delve deeper into a coloni ...more
Oct 02, 2013 Joel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kalimantaan is a very informative and fascinating tale about a period of history and a region of the world hardly known at all in the West. The story is apparently based on an actual English adventurer who, during the height of Britain's empirical feeding frenzy, stumbled onto an incredible opportunity to feed his megalomania as well as his obsession with memories of his dead mother. By a combination of blind ambition and pure dumb luck, he was able to establish (under the Crown) a raj, or kingd ...more
Aug 13, 2007 Mary-Beth rated it really liked it
This novel depicts an English raj created on the coast of Borneo. It is written from several different points of view, although it mainly details the story of Gideon Barr the man who begins the ruthless carving out of the English settlement, and eventually the story of his English bride, Amelia. She becomes the center of the novel once she is introduced, which is a relief, because the novel founders a bit before her more human perspective is gained.

As I just mentioned the beginning of the novel
Christine Benagh
There is a really great book in there somewhere. Brookes' story is marvelous; the mood is wonderful and evocative. The climax is outstanding, but, OMG, the narrative needs work.

The introduction is a total slog--and, then, who cares that he had deep personal problems after losing his mother. Then, the narrator shifts many times, but Godshalk does not know how to signal the shifts or identify the narrator's' place/s in the plot. How's that for creative punctuation?
Virginia Walter
May 28, 2015 Virginia Walter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-fiction
This richly described, dense historical novel is based on the life of a real British adventurer who created his own raj on the island of Borneo in the mid-nineteenth century. We see this world -- the tropical landscape, the Chinese merchants and the Malay headhunters, the other British settlers -- through many different perspectives, but perhaps the most interesting is that of Melie the young bride he brings from England.
Aug 16, 2015 Jeff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A novel that, in its convolutions of plot and dense plots, may leave you feeling like you've been somewhere very hot and sticky for a very long time. And in that regard, its style exactly matches its subject. I liked this novel very much.
Michael Alan Grapin
This is a story of 19th century British colonialism in Borneo following the rise and fall of a self made Rajah by the name of Barr. I found the story complex and very confusing although there were moments of clarity that kept me reading. However, by the end I was questioning the wisdom of continuing.
Jun 26, 2015 Sharon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I decided I wasn't interested so didn't start to read it. However, I'd suggest reading it. It was either nominated or won prizes, or listed as notable by some newspapers so I'll give it a 4.
May 04, 2015 Nadia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Based on a true story. Not many truly likable people. But fascinating look at the British Raj in Borneo.
Helen Hanschell Pollock
A really special book about Borneo, beautifully written and enjoyed by John Fowles.
I found the writing in this book to be as dense as the place it was depicting. Set in the cloying jungles of Borneo, the plot swayed between the imperialistic hubris of British colonizers and the varying love interests of the characters. The author also tended to use pronouns over names quite a bit, making the story confusing and detracting from the flow of the tale. There is a small dictionary of terms in the back of the book for some of the native words used, but it was not sufficient enough. ...more
I really liked the parts of this that were told from Amelia's perspective. If the whole book had been like that, I might have given it 5 stars. But the rest of the book felt really disjointed and confusing. Lots of poorly developed extraneous characters.
Possible different culture
a great review of the area's history post East India Company and their likes. Adventurers clearing themselves a kingdom out of very violent areas.

interesting in seeing different personalities and their interpersonal interactions as well as their impact on the area inhabitants. There is no information on their environmental impact, land or sea.

The book does not engage the reader well on a personal level. It is a little difficult determining who is speaking.
Jul 31, 2011 Lori rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
If you like historical fiction and would like to learn about English settlements in Borneo during the early 19th century then you may like this book. There were a lot of foreign words I did not understand and way too many characters to keep track of. I didn't really like the ending, either. It was a depressing book. The author did a phenomenal amount of research and I guess I can't really fault her for writing such a dismal story. It was a dismal time.
Feb 21, 2014 RK-ique rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I read this about 15 tests ago and recall being totally taken by it. It is fascinating. I recall feeling that I had been completely immersed in another world ... a world where various cultures come together and struggle for supremacy, some overtly, some subtly. Individuality stumbles in the face of cultural unity. Personal values become signs of betrayal. In the final analysis, one individual risks all.

A book for anyone who wants to be immersed.
Georgina Penney
Feb 18, 2014 Georgina Penney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: inspiration
I live on Borneo and one of the reasons I wanted to come here origionally was this book. The characters were so vivid they're still with me years later. The tension between the two characters Gideon and Amelia was beautifully maintained, the picture painted so vivid.

After moving here, I am constantly amazed by how Godshalk captured Sarawak and turned the environment into as fascinating a character as the people he writes so vividly about.

Sep 07, 2013 Mark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a breathtaking account of a remarkable place, a region that scarcely seems part of this world. The people in it are by parts naive, cruel, ambitious, incompetent, callous, endearing, loveable, open-minded and archetypal.

The story is sufficiently convincing that I needed to remind myself that, although based on reality, the characters are fictitious. I half expect to go to the region and see the old house and Chinese shops.
Josh Reid
Jun 20, 2015 Josh Reid rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating, character-driven examination of English colonizers in Borneo. It was a challenging read at times, but rewarding in its poignant language. Having a glossary of characters and places would've really helped.
Jun 30, 2014 Dg rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Couldn't finish it...I just couldn't get into ie.
Jeffrey Stalk
About how colonial powers tried to maintain a European way of life in a very alien environment. The book succeeds in conveying how superficial and fragile that "European life" really is and that, below the surface, all kinds of unknown and dark forces work against the colonials. The Chinese, the Malays, the Borneo natives, all see the Europeans as temporary interlopers.
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Christina Soccolich Godshalk (1942) is een Amerikaanse schrijfster. Na een verblijf van circa twintig jaar in Zuidoost-Azië schreef ze haar tot dusverre enige roman Kalimantaan, waarmee ze debuteerde in 1998. De roman speelt zich af op Borneo. De Nederlandse vertaling verscheen onder de titel Kalimantan. In het boek geeft Godshalk een geromantiseerd verslag van de expeditie van James Brooke naar S ...more
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