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A Tale from Bali
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A Tale from Bali

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  191 ratings  ·  23 reviews
Vicki Baum's evocative historical novel recounts the lives of peasants and nobles in colonial Bali, reared against a backdrop of bloodshed and cultural invasion. Dutch imperialism brings upheaval and revolution to the beautiful island, and the Balinese rebel in what would become a powerful and poignant example of symbolic resistance. A Tale from Bali culminates with the ...more
Paperback, 512 pages
Published May 15th 2000 by Periplus Editions (first published 1937)
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 ·  191 ratings  ·  23 reviews

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Soma Helmi
Sep 05, 2010 rated it liked it
I have mixed feelings about this one. I read this as part of my book club and can't say that I ever would pick it up again. On the positive side, being born in Bali it was quite interesting reading about Bali before tourism. Village life is described in exquisite detail by Baum, as are all the customs and rites. She's really captured the essence of the Balinese way of doing things, their sense of ethics. My only problem was on the factual side, specifically how much of it was fact and how much ...more
Jennifer Louden
Mar 11, 2014 rated it liked it
Great resource if you are wanting to know more about the history of Bali. I read a history book first which helped. The writing style is a bit dated (mid 1930's) but otherwise a compelling read.
Pauline Van etc.
Oct 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Vicki Baum’s novel is based on notes written by a Dutch friend of hers who lived in Bali for most of his life and worked as a doctor. She herself was passionate about Bali and decided to organize these notes into a book. The story takes place when the Bandoung kingdom (currently Denpasar) was taken over by the Dutch in 1906 after a terrible event referred to as a “puputan” (the end). Baum focuses particularly on three Balinese characters : a Shudra (a peasant), a Brahmin (from the rich and ...more
May 31, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of my Bahasa teacher's recommended this book...and while I was glad to get a book recommendation...I would have liked to read something more thrilling.

The story is "fiction" yet based on letters...really one is led to believe from the notes that the letters are from the author's friendship with Walter Spies. None of that is really is the story of a Balinese man at the beginning of the 20th century...and every day life. His yearning to take a second wife, his hope to become an
Feb 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very good journey into old Bali. Gets you into the mindset of how the Balinese think and feel. Not a page turner but a great painting of a culture
Dec 04, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set in Bali in 1906 the theme of this book centres around how steadfast you are in your values and beliefs. Are you brave enough to rethink them, resolute enough to risk everything or die for them?

Given the fast-paced, always on world we live in this was a quote in the book that stood out for me: "The gods did not make men that they might work till they dropped, but that they might enjoy life and have time to keep the feast days and have enough rest"
Sep 20, 2012 rated it liked it
I randomly picked up this book at a second hand bookstore - the binding was pretty and the description reminded me a little of the Pearl Buck novels I grew up reading. I actually enjoyed this book a lot - the story is well paced, the characters interesting and the historical context very compelling, in particular the climax with the battle scene.
Josephine Courtney
Oct 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Entitled "Love and Death in Bali" in the version I read, and read while in Bali, it was a fabulous tale which explains a lot of about Balinese customs and beliefs. The significance of their ceremonies was put into perspective and is a book I would recommend to travellers to Bali. A
Edmund Bloxam
Aug 06, 2019 rated it liked it
The back cover promises a book like the tale of the Titanic. Unlike in the movie, the 'huge event' at the end is incredibly short, a mere fraction of the book. Not much of this book is about colonialism. That's just the end. It's about village life in Bali.

My contemporary brain wants there to be more 'build up', more 'plot'. But this is kind of written in an old style. Where there are a sequence of events that are not necessarily related, but are interesting enough in and of themselves. There
Amy Rollo
Sep 26, 2019 rated it it was ok
The fact that it took me three months to finish this books speaks volumes. I had a hard time feeling connected to the characters and, at times, even understanding who is who. I was looking forward to this story because historical fiction is my crème de la crème, but it was difficult for me to get into it. I generally have a hard time with books written a long time ago because the writing just doesn’t captivate me. I kept thinking that the story would pick up, but I basically forced my way ...more
Dec 19, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A unique cultural portrait of Bali before the Dutch annihilated the island and the tourist hordes descended. Bali deservedly enjoys a reputation as a place of great beauty, kind people, and deep spiritual connections, but its idyll appearance masks a history that was tough and often brutal (as is the case most places) . While I could forgive the slow start, most of the characters in the story were not engaging. I also wondered to what degree the story would be the same if it were written by a ...more
Jul 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Prior to reading this, I had no knowledge whatsoever of the history of Bali, or the mass suicide by members of the royal family. The book was written in 1937 and at times I found it boring, with too much detail. However, it didn't take long for me to get hooked on the fictional story of Pak and his family. I learned a lot in the process and it made me more curious about this island's history.
Sara Elsherif
Dec 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bali is soooooo damn interesting. It is like in fairytales. This is the real alf leila w leila. Can't believe this novel was based on a true story! and spending a month on this exotic island and mingling with the locals and experiencing parts of what I was reading in the novel and experiencing the culture firsthand was FREAKING AWESOME and mind-blowing. This was not your typical "honeymoon trip" to Bali, this was an adventure and more like a cultural trip. Bali will always have a special place ...more
This is a must-have for all travelers to Bali, as it gives a comprehensive overview of the customs and way-of-life of Balinese of various rank at the beginning of the XXth century. The narrative is framed by 2 big set-pieces, the shipwreck of a Chinese ship and the Dutch military expedition mounted a few years later in part to punish the Balinese peasants who looted the ship, and their rulers who refused to pay compensation. Throughout Baum does an excellent job as a fair and dispassionate ...more
Aug 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing

What a story! Yes, it is written by a "non native", but I have to say that the descriptions of the Balinese lifestyle were VERY detailed! I would say that the only way this could be done is if the writer spent a considerable amount of time living on location.

When reading this book, keep in mind that it was written in an age that was not as fast paced as the 21st century. Also, I find it easier to read using the electronic version where I could enlarge the font size and line spacing.
Feb 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another book I had bought to read during my trip to Bali and one I immensely enjoyed. Baum really got into the heads of the Balinese cast and makes their way of thinking accessible to the western reader. Except for somewhat (purposely?) bland Pak, I found the characters fascinating and very well-written.

A fascinating insight into life on Bali at the turn of the 20th century, long before tourism, and the events leading up to the puputan (mass suicide) of the court of Bandung ahead of the Dutch
Sep 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written historical fiction that intelligently explores the differing perspectives leading to the mass suicide of the Balinese. I read this whilst I was in Bali which made the experience that much more enriching.
Lieve De velde
Feb 03, 2015 rated it liked it
I read it in bali and that made the book a pure pleasure. History, scenery and traditions all came to live. I don't know if i would have enjoyed it in another context, since the style is somewhat outdated.
Pam Ela
Jul 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is a very readable description of life in Bali at the turn of the 20th Century
Aurélie Knit & Read
Recommandé par un de mes chefs qui avait voyagé à Bali, un récit désorientant, violent et plein de subtilité.
For a brief review in Dutch, see the winter challenge 2013-2014 of the Netherlands & Flanders group,
Oct 11, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: bali
A nice fiction about the life of fictional characters in the early 20th century historical Bali.
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Vicki Baum (penname of Hedwig Baum) was born in a Jewish family in Vienna, Austria. She moved to the United States in 1932 and when her books were banned in the Third Reich in 1938, she started publishing in English. She became an American citizen in 1938 and died in Los Angeles, in 1960.