Long time friend, and friend of the blog, Sue Guiney has a brand new book out. It’s published tomorrow and it’s called Out Of The Ruins, and I’m delighted to have her back here to tell us a little about it, how it relates to her previous novel (which she also talked about here) and her passion for Cambodia.
Take it away, Sue…
There’s a line in the recent film, The Big Wedding, where a beleaguered Diane Keaton turns to her family and proclaims, “Remember, I did volunteer in Cambodia!” Well, no one likes to be reduced to a cultural stereotype, but it is true that I, too, have been drawn to the beauty and sadness that is today’s Cambodia. But my interest has gone beyond curiosity, though, and has become a passion, one which has led to a commitment to teach there every year, and to write a series of novels about what I see all around me while I’m there.
Cambodia is a place in the midst of real, and potentially dangerous change. In the eight years since I first went on a seemingly innocuous holiday with my family, the country has seen unprecedented development, and growing corruption. I leave in another few weeks for this year’s trip, and I fear for what I’ll find. Cambodia is in the news a lot lately. People are starting to take to the streets in attempts at peaceful demonstrations, only to be arrested, beaten and even killed by governmental armed forces. But the modern world has come to Cambodia, and there is no turning back. Indeed, in Siem Reap where I am based in the educational shelter, Anjali House www.anjali-house.com , free wifi is everywhere. You can’t walk down the street without stumbling over cracked pavement, but you can surf the web anywhere at any time.
Without my meaning to, my series of novels reflects this change. The first one, published in 2010, was A Clash of Innocents. This was set in an orphanage in Phnom Penh and against the backdrop of the beginning of the UN Tribunal and its attempt to bring the perpetrators of Pol Pot’s murderous Khmer Rouge regime to justice. That novel portrayed the harsh realities of life at that time, but it was very much infused with a sense of hope and optimism. But now, four years later, that Tribunal has stalled, the ineffectual though beloved King has died, the Prime Minister has consolidated his power. There is more anger and disillusionment than before, and that has crept into the pages of my new novel, Out of the Ruins.
Out of the Ruins imagines a clinic founded by Khmer and Westerners working together to battle the very real issues of women’s health care among the poor living within Siem Reap, a city steeped in a glorious past and hurtling towards an unsure future. It also takes a hard look at the sex trade and asks the question, how can good and evil reside together within the same heart. It is a book still culminating in hope, but it is a more mature hope, a hope that comes despite opened eyes, a hope that lives stubbornly because of an innate need and faith.
I could go on forever, but don’t worry…I won’t. But I will say thanks, Nik, for urging me to talk about this on your blog. There is very little fiction written in English about modern day Cambodia. I’m proud that my own work is opening the doors a bit so that English-speakers in the West can get a glimpse of the beauty, the spirit and the troubles of the Khmer people today. If anyone is interested, I’ve written quite a bit about it all on my blog over the years, and I’ll be writing more once I get back there www.sueguiney.com And both novels are available in paperback and ebook, published by the lovely gang at Ward Wood, and for sale at the usual on-line sites and better bookshops.