By Norasiah Gapar

Written in the 80s and storyline based just before Brunei’s Independence day in 1984.

The initial read was slow but once I got to the third chapter or so, I was hooked (line and sink within 48 hours). At first I thought it was going to be all about the main character, a female Bruneian doctor who just got back from UK after her medical training. I thought it was going to be the typical female character of the ‘ideal’ Bruneian woman – gentle, soft spoken, good manners, helpful to everyone, not to mention having beauty and intelligence. *eye rolls* I am so glad that the main character was given more depth and feelings – I actually liked her in the end! (Daym, even more annoying when you like the pretty/clever/talented girl) 

The ending has more twists to the plot and I couldnt help but be drawn and wish for more in the end (I also wanted a different ending but I promise, no spoilers….).

I love that there are different issues dealt with: interracial marriage, the Brunei rebellion, perception of what Islam entails, Brunei’s independence, medical ethics. Certainly for that time, this book must be a revolution! Not sure if revolution is the appropriate word but certainly a lot of sensitive topics dealt with in the book.

I do have to note that some of the medical information/cases reflected the theories and thoughts of medical society back then – things are much more progressive now! Main character was reflecting on how ‘little’ medical management was done for patient with Down Syndrome – which is how t was decades ago but this has changed a LOT now. 

I love that there is some romance in it and was actually rooting for the ‘hero’! Actual heart flutterings awaiting for the ‘happy ending’. 

A few things that bugs me:

The language spoken by the characters – it is too formal and little Brunei dialect used. I do understand perhaps she needed to formalise it so other South East Asian malay readers want to read it. However, I do wish to read books with Bruneian dialects in it. (Perhaps there are plenty! This is only the second bruneian book I’ve read.)

For those who doesnt understand the difference, the different ‘malay’ language is like this:

Formal Bahasa Melayu: ‘Apa khabar? Sila makan makanan yang disediakan. Ambil pinggan…’

Brunei Malay: ‘Apa khabar? Bah makan tah makanan yang kana sediakan ani. Ambil tu piring…’

(Translation: How are you? Come and eat the food prepared here. Take the plate…’)

There are lots of similarities but also lots of differencea and certainly different nuances and pronounciations for the different dialects!

She also used some words I’ve never heard before and sounded more Indonesian. Like ‘kaget’! Who used the word ‘kaget’?? Actually I’ve just googled it and it means ‘surprised, startled’. 
Also just one last thing – can we update the front cover please? It certainly looks 80s kind of book cover but wish it can be updated to make it more appealing. I guess you really should never judge a book by its cover. (You will increase sales with how a book cover looks like)

Kudos to the author Norsiah Gapar, who won the SEA Write Award (2009) and National novel writing competition (1987). 

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