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Music of the Ghosts


A love story for things lost and restored, a lyrical hymn to the power of...
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Discuss Music of the Ghosts by Vaddey Ratner:
Difficult reading

Created: 04/02/18

Replies: 30

Posted Apr. 02, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
clapshot

Join Date: 11/05/16

Posts: 16

Difficult reading

I found this novel to be really difficult to keep reading. I think part of the reason is the suffering of the main character and others around her. I had to put down the novel several times. I wonder if others also had this problem.


Posted Apr. 02, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
beckyh

Join Date: 05/08/11

Posts: 78

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RE: Difficult reading

I found this book very hard to get into. The first 200 pages were a chore. I was mostly confused, was I reading a mystery, a stream of consciousness novel. It was very to follow or make sense of the characters or time frame.


Posted Apr. 02, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
kathryns

Join Date: 08/18/15

Posts: 9

RE: Difficult reading

This book was initially difficult reading, for a few reasons:I was unfamiliar with the background of the Khmer Rouge régime and the United States involvement in Cambodia, and I have no knowledge of French or SE Asian languages. I had to do some external research to clarify situations (and translate the French!). It required patience to read through the first alternating portions of the book, until it all started to come together. I was captured, though, by the lyrical tone and the theme of music running through the book and became intrigued by the characters.


Posted Apr. 03, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
kimk

Join Date: 10/16/10

Posts: 335

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RE: Difficult reading

I did find it difficult to read the details of what the characters endured, but that’s the part of the book I found the most interesting. I often gravitate toward war books because I think it’s important to know what others have faced. As a member of a privileged class (at least today) I don’t know what it’s like to go to war, to experience what others have as war and violence surround them. I find I learn a lot about strength and endurance and, yes, just how cruel people can be to each other, and I think those are valuable lessons. Among other things, I hope it will provide me with the ability to stand up against evil should there ever be a time where I’m required to do so (although I actually doubt I’d have the courage to stand up against a popular leader like Hitler or Pol Pot or Saddam Hussein or any of the other maniacs that have inexplicably been able to get others to kill and torture in their names).


Posted Apr. 03, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Marcia S

Join Date: 02/08/16

Posts: 179

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RE: Difficult reading

I didn't find the situations difficult to read about. They are facts of war and should not be swept under the rug. The story itself was a bit confusing at first, until I realized who the Old Musician was and his relationship to Teera and her family. I was a ways into the book before it began to come together for me. I think the book is worth the read to the end so I would recommend that others stay with it.


Posted Apr. 03, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Carol Rainer

Join Date: 09/03/15

Posts: 72

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RE: Difficult reading

Yes - totally a tough read - I found myself having to put the book down and try to think of something else to soothe the unease in my chest. I did go back to it, though, as I needed to read to the end. It is a book I will always remember - how could I not?


Posted Apr. 03, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Beth350

Join Date: 04/15/11

Posts: 75

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RE: Difficult reading

For me it was difficult because I know several Cambodian refugees and it was very hard of them in these situations which would have been all too real for them. I remember when "The Killing Fields" movie came out and many of my refugee students went to see it, in part because it showed the landscape of the countries. Several women told me they cried all the way through the movies because of the memories it brought back. Knowing what these nice people I was teaching had to endure was quite upsetting.


Posted Apr. 03, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
reene

Join Date: 02/18/15

Posts: 312

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RE: Difficult reading

Yes, I found it to be a difficult read. The language was beautifully written, almost poetic. I found it difficult when she switched to the Cambodian language. In the beginning it was also hard to keep track of the characters and their relationships. It is also difficult to read about the brutality of war, even though I lived through this time period and witnessed it every night on television.


Posted Apr. 04, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
laurap

Join Date: 06/19/12

Posts: 223

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RE: Difficult reading

I found the structure of the book confusing, particularly with regard to chronology, and the characters to be flat , mostly mouthpieces for the author's feelings about life, war, and justice. The war atrocities and the losses of the characters were difficult in a different way -- they were very sad and awful to think about, but they were concrete and clear, so easier to comprehend in a way than the more abstract parts of the book.


Posted Apr. 05, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
MarieA

Join Date: 10/12/11

Posts: 198

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RE: Difficult reading

No, I did not think this novel was a difficult read; rather, I found it thought provoking and insightful. What happened in Cambodia and to the Cambodian people is a reminder of what war does to people and to countries and how difficult the rebuilding process--in structures and in human lives-- is.


Posted Apr. 06, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
annl

Join Date: 04/03/17

Posts: 25

RE: Difficult reading

I was happy to read these posts. I feel like this book is a good Oscar movie sometimes - a good book, but tedious to read. It does a great job of giving you the feel of the country and the people; but not without a lot of unnecessary flourish.


Posted Apr. 07, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
beckyh

Join Date: 05/08/11

Posts: 78

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RE: Difficult reading

I really wish there had been a glossary to translate all the French?, Cambodian? phrases and words that were used without explanation or translation. Perhaps in the next edition?


Posted Apr. 07, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Peggy H

Join Date: 06/13/11

Posts: 235

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RE: Difficult reading

Yes, it was a difficult read. I think part of the problem was not completely knowledgeable about Cambodia. Inteally could not get into and was confused about which man was talking. I could not just sit down and get involved. The violent parts were disturbing but true. A neighbor of mine just returned from a visit to Cambodia and I am anxious to hear what she thinks of the book as the past is not forgotten there.


Posted Apr. 08, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
barbf

Join Date: 11/29/17

Posts: 18

RE: Difficult reading

I also had a hard time reading the book because of the bitter attitude of the author. I know a number of families that made it out of Cambodia. Their stories are very similar to Ratners- they suffered in many of the sames ways as are described in the book. But they are not sour people, they remember with much sadness but they are not consumed with anger and dont live with the hate that this author expresses. I found this acrimonious attitude very difficult to read. It doesnt represent the Cambodians I know.


Posted Apr. 08, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
kate

Join Date: 01/22/11

Posts: 57

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RE: Difficult reading

I had the hardest time keeping track of what was going on. I loved her writing, poetic as someone else mentioned. Her writing style was what kept me reading, but the story was very hard to follow. I had read her first book “In the Shadow of the Banyan” and loved it. this one was much more difficult to get thru.


Posted Apr. 09, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Loveslife

Join Date: 08/01/15

Posts: 14

RE: Difficult reading

I did think this story was difficult at first. I loved the beautiful language and images and this is what kept me going until the story took on a life of its own. Many worthwhile endeavors require work and I am glad I kept reading.


Posted Apr. 09, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
RuthEh

Join Date: 07/31/17

Posts: 18

RE: Difficult reading

I couldn't quite put my finger on why this book felt difficult to read, then I read barbf's comment and everything clicked. Vaddey's bitter attitude made me feel angry, like what happened then was somehow my fault. Yes, I was alive when all of this was happening, but it was nothing I could have any control over. The first part of the book kept me unfocused, what? who? However I finally caught up in the second half and got the jest of it all. While I like the writing style and intentions of the book, sometimes the truth is hard to face. I will encourage others to read this book, it is historical and enlightening.


Posted Apr. 09, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
darleneg

Join Date: 02/15/18

Posts: 7

RE: Difficult reading

I found this book to be loving and compassionate even in places where that seemed undeserved or impossible. The writing was poetic, gripping and gave me hope that there are people who see how every culture needs a Day of Atonement.

I loved the vocabulary, even as I needed to early on do a quick scan of Pol Pot in Wikipedia in order to have in my mind a sketch of the historical facts (I didn't initially see the abbreviated timeline in the back of the book). I was actually grateful for this, and its a testament to the writing that I was willing to explore beyond the book to read it more fully. I wish history in school had been taught through stories such as this rather than dry facts; a perhaps more importantly stories that highlight ambiguity and humility rather than arrogance.

So was it a hard read, yes and no.


Posted Apr. 09, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
kimk

Join Date: 10/16/10

Posts: 335

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RE: Difficult reading

I do think that the beginning was confusing at first; I wasn't sure if Tun was Teera's father or how he was tied to her. Once that was cleared up, though, I found myself really immersed in the book.

I confess I'm surprised to see that other readers found the author bitter. I think she laid out the issues clearly and without candy-coating them at all, but overall I found the message very positive and affirming. Although the main characters had all suffered horribly, they still managed to forge a life and to be able to love again. Their families were destroyed, but although they grieved, they moved beyond the tragedy to create new relationships. I thought it was beautifully done, personally.


Posted Apr. 10, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
joyces

Join Date: 06/16/11

Posts: 410

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RE: Difficult reading

Difficult but addictive at the same time. The start was certainly not easy reading but it made you keep reading. Made you want to see what ultimately happened and how. Probably a good experience for those of us who have lived our lives in comfort in a stable environment.


Posted Apr. 10, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
andreab

Join Date: 07/29/14

Posts: 101

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RE: Difficult reading

I too had trouble getting into this story. Luckily my library had the audiobook and I have listened to it. The narrator is fantastic and I am now immersed in the story. This is a truly haunting book (made even more so by listening to it). I am so thankful to have read it because my knowledge of Cambodia's history and the resilience of its people and culture was severely lacking .


Posted Apr. 11, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
rebajane

Join Date: 04/21/11

Posts: 211

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RE: Difficult reading

I didn’t find it difficult, certainly not like her first book. Like others have said, we need to be aware of what happened. I did find it difficult to read about the American’s responsibility in the devastation of Cambodia. I was not aware of that


Posted Apr. 13, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
pennyp

Join Date: 03/22/12

Posts: 330

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RE: Difficult reading

I found it difficult to read. Not a quick or easy read, not only because of the topic but because of the way it was written. We spent quite a bit of time in Vietnam and Cambodia on an educational tour a few years ago. It reminded me of the many lovely people we met in both countries. We saw a lot of museums and artifacts and learned about the histories of both of the countries. I was kind of exhausted and sad when i returned home from that trip, i was a little sad after reading this book. I will remember it though.


Posted Apr. 13, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
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valeriec

Join Date: 10/20/10

Posts: 26

RE: Difficult reading

I agree reading was difficult, and I had to work to finish it.


Posted Apr. 18, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Lerrgoo

Join Date: 03/02/17

Posts: 16

RE: Difficult reading

I agree that it is very difficult subject matter to read through. I found that I have to give 100% attention to it, or I find myself lost & having to re-read the same passages. No, you are not alone in this.


Posted Apr. 18, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
juliaa

Join Date: 12/03/11

Posts: 189

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RE: Difficult reading

This is what I posted on the BookBrowse blog, and I'm changing it a little and putting it here for the convenience of other readers, who might not be following the BB blog.On the one hand, the book is hard to read because of the subject matter. On the other hand, the lyrical prose makes the effort worth it, as does learning more about a period of history that occurred in my lifetime. Also, I do feel that we as readers must, at least occasionally, step outside our comfort zones and read historical fiction that may be hard for us, but can teach us so much beyond the view of history we get from whitewashed textbooks and mainstream media. Thank you, Kim (blog poster), for articulating so beautifully why books like this are worth reading.


Posted Apr. 18, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Lois Irene

Join Date: 01/20/16

Posts: 51

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RE: Difficult reading

I could describe this as somewhat uncomfortable reading in places. Because this was historical fiction and represents a time and place that I knew so little about, it was totally worth the challenge. Amidst the discomfort were very beautiful memories, vivid landscapes, inspiring characters and the lovely musical imagery that helped me really enjoy this novel. The ending was hopeful, as well, as our main character falls in love and is about to begin a new family.


Posted Apr. 20, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
sylviaann

Join Date: 01/14/18

Posts: 20

RE: Difficult reading

I found it difficult to get through at times, and I had to be in the right mood to read it (in fact, I actually took a break from it to read something much lighter).


Posted Apr. 20, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
sylviaann

Join Date: 01/14/18

Posts: 20

RE: Difficult reading

I found it difficult to get through at times, and I had to be in the right mood to read it (in fact, I actually took a break from it to read something much lighter).


Posted Apr. 21, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
kenanr

Join Date: 02/20/14

Posts: 20

RE: Difficult reading

I found the prose to be so dense that I had to fully pay attention While lovely, complex writing is not a problem it does not make for an easy “skimable” beach read. So if I was tired, or something else was happening around me, I did not get very far in my reading. That said, I found the Old Muscian’s narrative in the past far more gripping than Teera’s timeline. His story was so compelling that my desire to know what happened eclipsed my discomfort at the subject matter.


Posted May. 08, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
janee

Join Date: 01/15/18

Posts: 7

RE: Difficult reading

I found this book to be difficult to read. After much thought about the plight of the country and its people, I realized the difficulty was in the fact that I have avoided this era in my selection of reading materials. I personnally thought the writing was exceptional and the author told the story so well, but not being familiar with the subject really put me at a disadvantage. Thank you Vaddy for letting me know what I don't know!


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