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Gun Dealers' Daughter

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  472 ratings  ·  70 reviews
A young woman pieces together her troubled past in this story of rebellion and romance set in the Marcos-era Philippines.

Soon after she leaves home for university in Manila, Soledad Soliman (Sol) transforms herself from bookish rich girl to communist rebel. But is her allegiance to the principles of Mao or to Jed, the comrade she’s in love with? Can she really be a part of
Hardcover, 294 pages
Published July 9th 2012 by W. W. Norton Company (first published January 1st 2010)
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Average rating 3.87  · 
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Jr Bacdayan
Feb 04, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have so much to say. This story is both very personal and surprisingly relevant to the socio-political landscape we are currently facing in the Philippines.

Present day Soledad is broken. She is a shell of her former self, an amnesiac still living in a past that never goes away. We get to listen to her point of view. A self-proclaimed unreliable narrator, she doubts everything she recalls. So we listen as her world is slowly stitched together pieced memory-by-memory till we glimpse the past an
Oward Bodie
May 30, 2014 rated it liked it
Set in the latter half of 1980, Sol, a member of the Philippine elite--absurdly wealthy, powerful, and yet timid and unsure--finds herself enrolled briefly in a local university, hoping not to while away a few months of illness before she embarks for America. Along the way she falls in love with another student, himself also the scion of prominent family. Entranced by his passion, and the magnanimity of his girlfriend (her "eponym"), she flirts with a motley crew of anti-Marcos activists and com ...more
Aug 14, 2021 rated it really liked it
Gina Apostol's Gun Dealer's Daughter is set in two different times: one, the late 1970s to early 1980s in Manila, following Sol in her transition from rich, rich, rich girl to an anti-government rebel; the second in the recent present, with Sol unable to escape the haunting memories of her past. She lives them in a loop; suffering from anterograde amnesia, Sol's mind is not fully able to retain new memories, so she focuses instead on the time period that weighs heaviest on her mind.

The first sol
Aug 26, 2022 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: new-riz
Thor Balanon
Apr 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sol in Gun Dealers' Daughter tries to salvage her memories of being a student in the Philippines, salvage, meaning something else during Martial Law, salvage, because the memories are dim and flickering for a reason. Gina Apostol writes like no other: energetic, brutally fractured. Her sentences reflect Sol's state of mind, fractured, like the Philippines. I personally enjoy it more when a novel challenges me; the lucidity at the end is both reward and admonition. Revolt with caution. ...more
Edwin B
Jul 16, 2014 rated it it was ok
Must a book be written where, in every page, you have to look up a couple of words in the dictionary? High-sounding, uncommon words prevented me from getting into this book, and I ended up skimming the last half of it so as to get to the end in time for my book club meeting. My friends gave the book a thumbs up, but I couldn't develop an emotional connection with the characters even though at first I got fascinated with the book's story line of dictatorship and revolution in the Philippines. ...more
May 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Currently my new favourite book. The prose was immensely beautiful and the plot, intricately-woven together. The scenes jump back and forth from present and past, which may deem confusing and chaotic to some people. However, I feel that it resonates with the theme of the novel: memory or perhaps the unreliability of memory. Of course, because it was set during a traumatic period in the Philippines (Martial Law era) and because of the trauma experienced by the narrator, she is completely unreliab ...more
Jan 03, 2013 rated it did not like it
The ending was fitting but I don't think the book should have been more than 200 pages. A lot of the things she wrote were irrelevant, unreliable and mindless rants that didn't help move the story along. ...more
Jul 15, 2012 rated it it was ok
Gina Apostol babbles profusely in flowery language with unnecessarily abundant ornate adjectives.
Margot Pitero
Aug 29, 2022 rated it liked it
The simplest Gina Apostol book I've read, yet it's still so poetic to understand at first read. I appreciate the plot and the character's context but I had a hard time determining whose POV is whose. But I also think that's the beauty of this novel - how we can't really tell who owns the narrative until it hits too close to home. ...more
Jan 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a vivid, sensual portrayal of the late Marcos years through the clouded eyes of an elite daughter of the revolution -- or, more accurately, daughter of the counter-insurgency whose political allegiance lies elsewhere, though in a confused, solipsistic way. I'm a little apprehensive about fictional accounts of the Marcos/martial law era because it's been mined to death for cultural capital outside the Philippines, but there's a richness to Gun Dealers' Daughter that exceeds less substanti ...more
Aug 19, 2021 rated it liked it
“Words are all we have to save us, but at the same time, they are not enough to make us whole.”

This book was just -- woah momma. My brain was panting after I finished it. You HAVE to be a literary snob to actually read this book seamlessly. I had to stop two to three sentences just to know the hifalutin words used and I had to re-read several to know what was going on. I know the book aimed to be poetic but it became so poetic that it was really hard to digest — some intimate scenes sounded ridi
Mar 10, 2015 rated it did not like it
As a fan of historical fiction, and revolutionary women in historical fiction, I really wanted to like this book. But this was one of those times I was happy to not be a graduate student in English, forced to plod my way through some unreadable tome, slogging through deeply boring and overwritten text.

Certainly, the book is literate; words like "recidivating" and "carious" pepper the pages. However, I found the protagonist to be frankly unlikable; born rich, very passive, swept up in the romanc
Maria Ella
Wow, my reading experience is an adventure!!!

I was tasked to moderate Gina's another novel, The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata, but since that book is more confusing and more tricky (with its literary styles), I tried searching for her other works in linear form. After her short story in Manila Noir, this came as another alternative. Bibliolepsy, meanwhile is to be re-released next year, by Soho Press. (view spoiler)
Dec 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
a fantastic book! sometimes apostol is e.m. forster or edith wharton, ie a proto-modern who can linger over a scene's details with almost victorian pacing. simultaneously she's a wit and an experimentalist à la calvino or cortázar and her novels become a penrose staircase of amnesiac memoirists or an erasing documentarian, mazes of duplicitous memory.

here, there are passages that are downright society farce -- until they open into truly darker territory, exposing class relations and imperial po
Aug 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"Gun Dealers' Daughter" revolves around themes that are central to the Filipino experience: the vast socioeconomic divide, the social and political weight of titles and family names, political corruption and its impact on all citizens, and the complicated and enduring legacy of colonialism. These themes come together in what is one of the novel's main conflicts: Can a person from the upper echelons of society participate meaningfully in acts of political resistance? Is such a person best positio ...more
Sep 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
By Part 3 (the final section) the plot picks up a lot of steam, and much of the rest of the book begins to resolve itself into some degree of sense or purpose. Until that point, the plot plodded along slowly, and lots of arcana fill up a lot of space. It's obviously a very thought-out, cerebral, rich book, and after reading the end, I am tempted to go back and piece together more of the beginning sections.

After meeting the author at Amherst, the fractured narration and the panoply of voices and
Jan 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
At first I thought I wouldn't like it but the ending was so perfect that everything previously mentioned on the book made so much sense. ...more
Mel Auffredou
May 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Confusing as hell but well worth it
Feb 18, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Weeks before the Presidential Election and with the dictator's son running and leading in the surveys, it is fitting to have read this book that tells how people of the two different classes of society lived during Marcos's reign—in true Gina Apostol fashion, of course.

Despite the singular style of writing in this, the political critique was clear as day in this brilliant book. Those who march and fight against the tyrannical President and his goons and hoodlums would be brought down by discreet
Nick Klagge
Nov 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: filipino
I picked up this book after seeing Gina Apostol speak at an event earlier this year, and in advance of her new book "Insurrecto" (which is being released tomorrow!). She is a big personality on stage, and this comes through in the book as well.

The novel follows Soledad Soliman, a college student who is the eponymous daughter of arms dealers in Marcos-era Manila. It follows her involvement with resistance groups, and her slow process of learning the full nature and extent of her parents' busines
Julius Bautista
Aug 19, 2022 rated it it was ok
Let’s just say I really wanted to like this highly acclaimed novel. Unfortunately, I found myself disoriented by its oblique, mosaic style. I get it- the disjointed structure is precisely the point, that it reflects the protagonist’s state of mind. I just feel that the prose gets too richly embroidered and comes off as frustratingly overwritten. Don’t get me wrong, some of the best books are just so exquisitely written so as to render the reader breathless . Nabokov does it without being too flo ...more
Bryan Thomas Schmidt
Mar 28, 2022 rated it it was amazing
It started slow and I had a trouble getting into it but once the book really took off, I couldn’t put it down. I did not like her previous book The Revolution According to Raymond Mata but this was a much more linear modern style and highly compelling with an interesting lead character. Set in the time of Marcos, it’s really a coming of age story about a young girl getting ready to leave home for the first time and how she discovers her own identity by getting involved in her own rebellion of so ...more
Jan 18, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fil-author, hisfic
“It is true, Sol, that language is all we have to tell our story. That may be so. But you can see where the tragedy lies. It is a paradox at the heart of our human mystery perhaps. Words are all we have to save us, but at the same time, they are not enough to make us whole."

- i was confused but intrigued by the non-linear sequence of events but i think i’ll appreciate it a lot more in a reread
- elegant writing but the abundance of highfalutin words was unnecessary
- some parts and aspects are rem
Gaelen Molina
Aug 24, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic novel. The plot of this story is so important, especially today given the current state of politics in the Philippines. Gina Apostol wrote a haunting and beautiful story about class, colonialism, and history. Sol, her troubled mind, and the story she tells us is extremely compelling because of her character and her motivations. Apostol's beautiful descriptions of Manila are perfectly juxtaposed with the no-punches-pulled descriptions of Philippine history. It is so refreshing and IMPOR ...more
Sep 18, 2018 rated it liked it
I wanted to love this book. The premise was so appealing- a story that combines recent history, people wanting to change the world, lust, and lots of literary references. Interviews I read with the author made me want to like it even more, but this one is not going on my list of favorites. At times, I had a hard time getting through it and I put it down for a while before coming back. I'm tempted to say the writing is uneven, but that may be unfair to say since it took me a few months on and off ...more
Oatmilk Lover
Took me more than a month to finish. Read until about 50% of the book, then school got me again, and I just finished the other half now that it's summer vacation. My rating is far from reliable or valid. I remember liking it, but now as I finished it I didn't feel anything. What a disservice to this book. I am ashamed. ...more
Chuck Heikkinen
Sep 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
A despairing teenage girl searches for a sense of belonging, learning that her parents are involved in an unsavory occupation, and joins a group of young communists. The unsavory history of the American War with the Philippines salts the narrative and gives an excellent peep-hole into a part of history never taught in the US.
Matt Miles
Jun 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
The prose and exploration of theme through wordplay, use of time and memory, and unforgettable imagery are effective. My only gripe is that the two characters who should have felt fleshed out weren’t. Regardless, this haunting read was definitely worth it.
Ivan Labayne
Dec 18, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pinoy
edwin turned out to be a comrade, "he's good at pretending to be the exact opposite of who he is." recall borges' pierre menard, "his resigned or ironical habit of propagating ideas which were the strict reverse of those he preferred." ...more
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Gina Apostol was born in Manila and lives in New York. Her first novel, Bibliolepsy, won the 1998 Philippine National Book Award for Fiction. She just completed her third novel, The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata, a comic historical novel-in-footnotes about the Philippine war for independence against Spain and America in 1896.

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