C. S. Godshalk
Henry Holt, 1998. 472pp
Over a century and a half have passed since Englishman Gideon Barr worked the Asian route for the East India Company. Gideon's travels took him into China, India, Malaysia, and countless other locales. He fights off deadly diseases and even deadlier weather. He battles with Asian merchants, who loathe the "British superiority" ethic that he easily flaunts at them bbecausethey are forced to trade under his rules.
It is on the island of Borneo in the Malaysian Archipelago that Gideon takes all he has learned from his imperialistic bartering with the natives and carves out a small fiefdom based on Victorian ideals, but financed by opium. Gideon establishes his private raj through ruthless means. Most of his personal followers, especially his cousin, are even more brutal than himself with the native population. Gideon's teenage spouse does provide a serene counterpoint with her love of life. However, unless she can reach her beloved, it seems that the thriving but vicious transplanted society that he has established to surmount and destroy the local culture (which is also very brutal) is all that Gideon wille ver really care about.
Kalimamtaan is an interesting work of historical fiction based on a real event from the early days of Queen Victoria's reign. The story line based on clashing cultures is extremely interesting, and the motivations of the lead characters and the support players (both English and Asian) are brilliantly brought out in the novel. Some readers may not like the use of nineteenth century vernacular even though it adds a touch of authenticity to this brilliantly written historical fiction. C.S. Godshalk demonstrates that she has done her research and has a wealth of talent that will surely be heard from in the future.
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