shanghao's Reviews > First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers

First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung
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bookshelves: non-fiction, society, orient, war

The author's choice of using the present tense narration through her childhood eyes worked wonders for making you feel like you're a witness in the midst of the family's experiences.

Despite the Animal Farm-esque brutality, it's still heartening how you could see Loung transform from a spoilt and pampered city girl into a strong, albeit still selfish, fighter with a fierce drive for survival. The restrained expressions of emotions didn't hide the love shared between the family members and some of the best moments in the book occur during such scenes. And in the way she wrote about her Pa, it's obvious how much she loved him and the words were beautiful to read in their child-like worship of a larger-than-life father.

The editing wasn't very good for such a renowned publisher though; you encounter words such as 'loose' instead of 'lose' and 'bare' where 'bear' should be. While such basic errors did not discount the power of the storytelling, they did break the flow of the story, and called the editor's credibility to question.

Speaking of credibility, not really a fan of the 'imaginary' sections although I understand that it's comprehensible why the young Loung would have those images running through her mind.

The story itself is harrowing, but there were a few parts in which I got the sense of dramatization for its own sake. Coloured by a child's impression of a brutal experience, the narration in a nutshell tells me that rich city people are good and wise; the poor peasants are crass and cruel and are all on power trips. For all I know though, probably that's what really happened and that there really weren't any grey areas.

Not much was touched upon in terms of lessons learnt other than that in times of turmoil, it pays to be selfish and violent until the foreigners come to set everything straight; the baddies got punished, the lucky survivors got saved.

Still, this is a story that deserves to be read simply because of the scarcity of actual accounts in English from one of the bleakest implosions a nation could have experienced.
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Reading Progress

October 8, 2014 – Started Reading
October 8, 2014 – Shelved
October 8, 2014 – Shelved as: non-fiction
Finished Reading
January 14, 2015 – Shelved as: backburner
March 5, 2015 – Shelved as: society
March 5, 2015 – Shelved as: orient
March 5, 2015 – Shelved as: war

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