Thursday, June 19, 2008

Book Review: "The Moon in the Mango Tree" by Pamela Binnings Ewen

Historical fiction at its Best

Barbara has given up her dreams as an opera singer to follow her husband and his career as a doctor. Unfortunately his dreams mean leaving the country for the other side of the world in Siam. There Barbara must adapt to a completely different way of life, where she finds herself being ostracized by the missionary women and lonely without Harvey being there all the time. She finds herself wondering if her love for Harvey is really worth the sacrifices she must make. Based on the true story of the author's grandmother, this novel is a wonderful insight to a Westerner's view of an exotic land.

One of my most favorite movie musicals of all time is The King and I. The remake, Anna and the King starring Jodie Foster and Chow Yun Fat, is equally stunning and beautiful. These movies gave an insight to Siamese culture. Thailand was the only Southeast Asian country to never fall to European colonization. Yet missionaries flocked to the country to help to westernize and bring Christianity to the people. This book joins that list to aiding to help give an insider's look at the country. There were several female characters in this story that really irked my gut. I just hate how women always manage to find someone to put each other down, even when they are supposed to be uplifting in a dire situation. I felt so sorry for Barbara after the way she was treated especially when she had done absolutely nothing wrong. It's just sad how missionary life can make people bitter because they soon realize they cannot change the world by themselves. I disliked Harvey at first. He seemed to act like the stereotype of most men who are more career driven than family minded. I was actually quite impressed with Barbara's decision. It was very modern of her to do what she did which her suffragette background helped to influence. I thought the story was extremely well written. I really felt like I had traveled back to the 1920s with the excellent description of the time period. This is a wonderful armchair traveler as the reader becomes immersed in the Thai and European cultures. This story also has special meaning to meaning to me as my father's family is from neighboring Burma. Therefore many of the unique traditions mentioned in the story are shared by my cultural background as well. If there's a historical fiction book you read this year, it needs to be this one. HIGHLY recommended.

The Moon in the Mango Tree by Pamela Binnings Ewen is published by B&H Publishing (2008)

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