Your past is what makes you into you and it will always be a part of you.
That’s what I understood after finished reading Ghostwritten by Isabel Wolfe. It’s a wonderful book that took Indonesia’s history for one of the main characters’ life story. This is quite interesting, as Isabel decided to take the Second World War setting so far to the east and not in Europe or West as usual.
I bought the book for Rp 26.000,00 ( or 1.99 USD) in Periplus, it was during the mid-year sale and I just didn’t want to miss the chance to buy great books with great deals!
I have bad experiences with discount books. Usually, the contents are not as impressive as their synopsis and I’m too lured by the price. So, I didn’t have high expectation either for Ghostwritten, considering the price and my experiences.
However, after reading the book, I was amazed. I didn’t want to miss a single page. I was very absorbed into Klara’s childhood story that I wondered if the book could extend its content by itself if I read slower. Of course, it didn’t, which still disappoints me until today.
At first, I thought the book would be a boring documentary of Klara’s childhood story. I mean, I have read a lot of my country’s version of the Second World War and I wasn’t ready to read something as heavy as my country’s History book. As it turned out, the book is much more than just a documentary. I was able to see a side that rarely get discussed.
I was able to see a side that rarely get discussed, thanks to the book. For the first time, I understood what non-natives went through when Indonesia was under Japan colonial. Despite the fact that Klara, a Dutch woman who lived in Indonesia for a decade or so, was just a fictional character, I wanted to believe her story was real.
And, yes, Klara is my favorite character alongside with Peter, her brother. The fact that Isabel described her character as someone who could behave and think maturely in such a hard situation was what got me. I also love her for her way of thinking for food! As I have said above, the fact that Klara felt so real– unlike Jenni– is probably the reason why I finished the book so fast. I also can’t describe how sad I was when I realized how Klara could understand her mother very deeply and always think of her in everything she did.
The book kept switching between Jenni and Klara’s life story. However, when it was about Jenni’s life, the book was indeed very mysterious. Isabel kept the understanding far behind, letting us try to understand everyone’s story and guessing if we were right. Or at least, she made me guessing things out as I tried to finish Jenni’s part.
I also loved Jenni’s stance in love and marriage. She wasn’t trying to be “modern” girl but, she was struggling with her past. Which is why I love this book more. The way that Isabel explained Jenni’s struggle was totally my style. It was explained very slowly but the bomb was out at the perfect time when things finally go toward the right path.
As I have said above, I love Klara’s story. And, I would like to be biased again, this time, my favorite scenes came mostly from her story. I love the fact that I was able to study more about my country’s past and the dark sides that not very known. I loved the scenes when Klara told Jenni how Indonesian natives were when the women and children passed by them to be moved into the camps. There’s also a scene when Klara couldn’t understand why the natives hunted them down when the independence had been declared. That scene was my favorite, as it somehow still reflects in today’s society.
I also love the scene when Klara told Jenni about her losing her best friend. I didn’t cry when I read that scene but I held my breath long enough to respect the best friend. It was heartbreaking when I realized that almost every family in the book lost at least one family member.
In general, the book is so good at luring your curiosity into the scenes. The sad scenes are bombs and I love it.
The thing is, as an Indonesian who is not very aware of what happened to Westerners during the Second World War and Japan colonialism, this book has successfully made me wondering about my country’s history from another perspective. However, if history lesson bores me to death (although it has never been the case), the book brings me into a fun nostalgia with Klara and Jenni.
If I have to recommend this to people, I would be glad to promote it as one of your source of knowledge. I would like to recommend this to people, who are like me, had never heard of how Westerners suffered during the Second World War. The book lets me know that Indonesian weren’t the only one suffering inside the Japan colonialism.
Although political history has a lot to say about these Westerners, I want people to know a different story from the political history. The book tells about ordinary people’s struggles– just like how natives were facing, which is I’m very familiar with.
However, I didn’t like how the book ended quite blandly. The ending didn’t live up to Jenni and Klara’s doings. If we were taking a ride and the car was going through uphill road, the end of the story is like letting the car go down from the uphill road very fast and then stop completely. The ending was way too bland for my liking, it didn’t make me going “ah…” instead, it made me going “is that it?”.
I also don’t talk a lot about Jenni’s story because I didn’t really like how her story was kind of draggy. Her story kept going round and round. Although, it was quite bearable. But, yes, I admit that I wanted to skip her story most of the time to sink myself into Klara’s story again. Jenni’s story became interesting as it went towards the end. She hid way too much for half of the book that I stopped caring and then picked her up again after the revelation was very close.
Finally, this book is definitely in my best books list. I adore the story and most of all, thankful that someone could deliver such a beautiful story with Indonesia as the main place. Not everyone had dug out Indonesia’s history and this is actually very brave and out of ordinary. At least, for me.
Isabel also provided Q & A at the end of the book, which is very helping if you’re wondering about one or two things about the story!
I would gladly give 4.5 stars out of 5 for the book.
P.S : This is my first time trying to review a book. The book moves me so much that I just have to review it!