Friday, 9 August 2013

Never Fall Down

Generally I'm not a fan of war books. I'm an emotional reader and I find them way too upsetting to read. However I have had my eye on Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick for a couple of weeks because I saw that it was about the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia which I knew nothing about, apart from the phrase 'The Killing Fields', and a hazy idea of injustice.

I just finished Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher for out Teen Book Group at Narre Warren (which all are welcome to join by the way) and deciding I may as well continue with a bit of depressing reading I picked up Never Fall Down. It is a novel based on the real experiences of a man called Arn Chorn-Pond, a man who was a boy when the Khmer Rouge took power Cambodia in the 1970s. The narrative is told in the first person by McCormick based on interviews she undertook with Arn, and the other people mentioned in the story. It is a very powerful narrative, and feels very immediate for this reason. 

This is an amazing story of a kid who managed to survive while hundreds were killed around him. He survived initially by becoming part of a musical group that was taught to play revolutionary themed songs and eventually even joined with his oppressors in an effort to survive. This story is told with compassion but also does not flinch from the hard truths that those in terrible circumstances must face. You may not like this man after reading his story but you will certainly understand him and something of the terrible things the people of Cambodia went through during this period.

Ultimately however, this is a story of hope. While the human race can do some truly despicable things, our capacity for forgiveness, of ourselves and of others, and our ability to continue to hope for the best in the direst of circumstances gives this story some light within the darkness.

- Celia


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