This is a transporting and absorbing read, yet to call it magical or enchanting feels far too flippant for writing that covers so much real suffering and violence. Pascal Khoo Thwe’s life story, from growing up in a catholic tribe in Burma to fighting in the jungle as a rebel, feels an important one to share. His keen observations and favouring of explanations in place of simple descriptions bring his narrative alive. The clarity of his writing and matter of fact approach do justice to both the delightfully fantastical and the unjustifiable atrocities he repeatedly witnessed. From the Padaung to Mandalay and on into the jungle, this is a captivating, educating and eye opening tale. Hand drawn illustrations and photographs underline the reality of both the wonders and the horrors.
Looking for a few quotes, just one paragraph contained these two gems and every page is filled with meaningful and mesmerising passages.
On eating wasps
The meat of the baby wasp is tender, and the texture is somewhere between scrambled eggs and roast prawn….(many years later, I was to read Lewis Caroll. My descriptions sound quite like him but are literally true.) ….We regarded wasps as a delicacy, which is why we tried to be so precise in describing their taste – rather like wine-lovers in Europe.
On hanging honeycomb on doors to ward off spirits: Continue reading “From the land of Green Ghosts – Pascal Khoo Thwe”
This is a glorious book. It was such a magical read and I think it’s my favourite, a bold statement from someone who is too indecisive to decide on a morning cereal, let alone a favourite anything. Adopted from an Oxfam shop purely for its sleek style and beautiful 1950s patterned endpapers from Persephone, this book was one wonderful surprise after another.
Beyond a delightful heroine who sees the world in a dreamy detached way, this is a frank commentary on feminism, religion, sex and social expectations that is still fresh and really very funny. Patience’s self discovery, her wonder at life and her straight forward perception of the world that was often mistaken for ignorance resonated so strongly with me that I was stunned to see it was written by a man, and a man in the 1950s at that! It felt like a small miracle. Please don’t think I’m under any impression men can’t empathise, I was just delighted to find that someone had done, and with such clarity, so far ahead of their time (and no I didn’t clock the name on the cover, I tend to get a bit over excited and just dive headlong into books!).
There is a great and much more articulate review over on Yasmine Rose’s book blog that puts all my feelings about it into words, while I’m still waving my arms about and exclaiming ‘fabulous’, ‘incredible’ and ‘you simply must read it’.
Reading it for the second time, it was just as funny, I had slightly forgiven it for the whole orgasmic mountains and violins metaphors and really enjoyed the forward by Maureen Lipman that gave me the confidence to start waving the book under friends’ noses and insisting they sit down and enjoy it immediately.