With the dust having barely settled from her first novel, The Trader of Saigon, Lucy Cruickshanks has released her newest addition to the genre of South-East Asian, historical fiction. The Road to Rangoon entwines two lives from completely different worlds in the savage civil war from which Myanmar is still recovering.
We have Thuza; a poor ruby-smuggler, desperate to escape the horrors of her past, whose world is changed irrevocably when she meets the lost son of the British Ambassador, Michael Atwood. As the headstrong and careless antithesis to Thuza, Michael finds himself between two armies in the Burmese backcountry, and entrusts Thuza to help deliver him back to Rangoon. Cruickshanks is skilled in her ability to marry her fiction with well-researched historical events. Indeed, having had a prior interest in Myanmar and its recent history, Cruickshanks effectively depicted a visceral world of bloodshed, without compromising on historical integrity.
Moreover, the novel endeavours to capture the culture and language of a people that are still unknown to the majority of the world, as Myanmar has only been accessible to tourists for four years.
What is most striking in The Road to Rangoon is the level of detail – specifically regarding the interactions and traditions of rural life – that Cruickshanks has been able to collect. The accomplishments of Cruickshanks’ storyline and historical specificity, however, are slightly dampened by her overworked style of writing. Cruickshanks is relieved of some criticism in her display of originality and a razor sharp understanding of the linguistic and sociological aspects of Burmese life. However, the imagery and language used to create the sour world of a country in civil war was overplayed and at times, bombastic.
In saying this, what Cruickshanks lacks in literary prowess, she makes up for in her adventurous approach to fiction. With a large amount of contemporary fiction filling the current market, both of Cruickshanks’ novels offer an insight into worlds that are usually restricted to the most distressing sections of the news.
It is this focus on a real-world tragedy that has been a popular focus for some of our most beloved writers of the 20th century (Orwell, Hemingway, Woolf – to name a few) and this is why Cruickshanks will remain so relevant in our literary world.
Image: Wikipedia Commons