More than thirty years after their earliest kiss, Anne Greeves, a woman alone in Canada, feels compelled to speak about her first lover Serey, a gentle Cambodian singer. She describes a passionate love that transcends all barriers - followed by a decade of inexplicable silence, a miraculous meeting and, finally, a treacherous pursuit across Cambodia's killing fields in the aftermath of Pol Pot's cruel revolution, a quest doomed to end in agonizing heartbreak. ..... From the outer back cover.
FIRST SENTENCE: Mau was a small man with a scar across his left cheek.
MEMORABLE MOMENT: I loved the wisdom called chbap. Vithu taught me: Don't let a hungry man guard rice, don't let an angry man wash dishes.
At 284 pages (not including the historical notes etc) this was in fact a very short read given all the spaces with no or very little text - one chapter consisted of only one and a half lines of type.
Far too 'flowery' and poetic to the cost of both the plot and characters - if I'm totally honest,, I found myself totally uninterested in what became of Anne or Serey which is a shame as this could have been such a moving love story.
'A love that transcends all barriers' claims the back cover. Given the time that the story was set, I would have expected some racial tensions with Anne being a young, white woman and Serey an older, more experienced, Asian man. Sadly the author did not really develop this side of the story which to me prevented it from becoming realistic.
But even more disappointing was the way in which the journey to the killing fields was dealt with. I don't know if it was the overly poetical language that was used but, and I'm almost ashamed to say this, I was left unmoved even with the ending that was quite harrowing but so contrived as to be unbelievable. Such a shame as it really did have the potential to be so moving and to make quite a large impact on the reader.
Would I recommend The Disappeared? Shortlisted for the 2009 Scotiabank Giller Prize, I would assume that lot of people thought highly of this novel and would recommend it. I, unfortunately, am not one of them.