Cambodia was broken open by the Cold War, a passive victim of domino theories, the Vietnam conflict and the casual brutality of global strategies. In the wake of the devastation had moved Pol Pot. Calling his work genocide missed the point, it was suicide, the Khmer Rouge had killed their own. Nearly two million dead, a fifth of the population in less than four years, amidst a senseless spiral of utopian ideology, peasant savagery and mind-numbing incompetence. After Pol Pot had been driven away, Cambodia was consumed by a fifteen year civil war funded by American and Russian rivalry. The ending of the Cold War had found Cambodia a shattered brutalised victim of a country, awash with murderers, survivors and refugees; a victim surrounded by a guilt-ridden guilty world.The book is a political novel set in modern Cambodia drawing on its recent history, the legacies of its violent past, and the guilt that threatens to drown its future.
Emily is a shy, socially clumsy English lawyer with a resentful streak, a taste for alcohol and a driving need to find some kind of direction in her life. In Cambodia where an autocratic and brutal government creates a need for human rights lawyers, she hopes to find that direction. She sees a poisoned society awash with corruption, violence and development aid. Corrupt bureaucrats, ex-murderers, traumatised genocide survivors and westernised idealists mix with a stratified western community of aid workers, missionaries and sex-tourists.
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