Nancy Oakes's Reviews > The Year of Living Dangerously

The Year of Living Dangerously by Christopher J. Koch
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Mar 24, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: australian-fiction

Set in Indonesia just before, during and just after the ouster of Indonesian leader Sukarno by a coup, the novel is narrated by a journalist named Cookie, whose role here seems to be as a father confessor to a handful of fellow journalists, some who have been in Indonesia for a while, and some, like Guy Hamilton, who have only just arrived. Guy is one of the central characters of the novel -- ambitious, looking to make a name for himself. Hamilton is taking the place of another Australian journalist who didn't quite make the grade & was sent home. Hamilton's sojourn in Indonesia starts off slowly until he meets another central character, Billy Kwan, a dwarf of Australian and Chinese parentage. Billy senses something in Hamilton, and jump starts his career as a journalist in Indonesia by tipping him to some major contacts. All around the journalists, who live & work in the glorious Hotel Indonesia (which is a totally separate and unreachable world for all but the most wealthy of natives), there is nothing but poverty and poor living conditions, which tend to worsen as Sukarno, idolized by Billy at the beginning of the story, takes money given in aid and uses it to buy his monuments & toys rather than help the people of Indonesia. The worsening plight of the natives under Sukarno is pointed out throughout the novel, as is the belief that journalists have a sort of moral obligation to report what's really going on with the people, so that perhaps they can help them

Billy Kwan, with his old Bell and Howell camera, becomes Guy's eyes because he can go several places where the foreign journalists can't , but Billy has his own agenda and his own ideas about the role of foreign correspondents in his troubled country, especially Hamilton, with whom he develops a bond that was not offered to the other journalists. Instead, the journalists are just hanging on in Indonesia, waiting for that one big story of a lifetime that just might further their own careers.

I definitely recommend this one to anyone who likes books about post-colonial Asia. I also think it's well worth reading by anyone in general. I saw the movie eons ago when it first came out, but just bought it to watch again so that I can refresh my memory now that I've read the novel.

A great book; I'm positive I'm missing out on other good ones by this author! Recommended
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