cambodia, read

John Burgess’ ‘A Woman of Angkor’

I’ve just received a copy of John Burgess’ new novel, A Woman of Angkor, published by River Books. This book intends to be a historical novel that takes the regular people of the ancient Khmer kingdoms as seriously as most take the rulers.

It also comes highly recommended by folks with reputations, at least judging this particular book by the blurbs on its cover, including lauds from archaeologist Michael Coe, and art historian and Angkor tour guide author Dawn Rooney.

Most promising in terms of its writing style, however, is the lovely quote from John le Carre:

Burgess has done something that I believe is unique in modern writing: set a credible and seemingly authentic tale in the courts and temples of ancient Angkor to stir the imagination and excite our historical interest.

I’m looking forward to reading it in my spare free moments, and would love to hear from readers in the comments if they have read it, or might read it along with me.

The chapters are generally quite short, so I’m going to set very modest pace of 1-2 chapters a day. I’ll write up my comments below, as well.

edit: I’ve decided against summarizing in the comments below, both to preserve against spoilers, and to allow for a more summary writeup at the end.


4 thoughts on “John Burgess’ ‘A Woman of Angkor’

  1. Alison says:

    I’ve been keen to read this along with 2 other novels based in Cambodia:

    Temple of a Thousand Faces

    and The Map of Lost Memories

    Once I finish 4th Game of Thrones book I’ll join in your “Woman of Angkor” book club!

  2. So, I finished Burgess’ book a week or so ago. I’ve been busy with writing my own prose, and haven’t had a chance to follow up here, but:

    It’s a lovely book. It’s a bit Zelig-esque. For you younger people, that means that the main characters somehow end up participating in nearly every important moment in the Twelfth Century in which the book is set, much like Forrest Gump shows up at nearly every important event in the mid-to-late Twentieth Century. Normally, that would be a criticism, but as the first historical novel set entirely in this period (of which I am aware), perhaps that impulse was too hard to ignore, and may be forgiven. Indeed, for the first novel set in this period, the Zelig approach is part of the pleasure.

    The writing is direct, clear, and simple, all of which I intend as general compliments. Burgess’ experience as a journalist shows through in his writing. Some may find the writing too simple, and I myself would have appreciated a slightly more ‘literary’ writing style, but Burgess’ focus is clearly the *story,* so again I decline to criticize.

    I rarely link to the Cambodia Daily anymore, since they’ve started the disastrous policy of charging for online content (seriously? Even with major international brands like the New York Times, charging for content is furiously debated as a reasonable strategy; do they really think there are enough people in the world who want to read the Cambodia Daily’s few exclusives – the rest can all be found online for free – that charging us for it will *increase* their readership and sales, and not decrease it? Shaking my head, over here). However, since a recent review gave away most of the plot, for those who like spoilers, head over here:

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