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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:
Does the novel succeed?

Created: 04/03/18

Replies: 15

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

Join Date: 11/05/16

Posts: 16

Does the novel succeed?

Within the novel Ratner alternates between the stories of Tun and Teera and between past and present. Readers, therefore, need to do the work of making the connections. Do you think the novel succeeds in enabling you as reader make the connections?


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: Does the novel succeed?

I felt that it did. There is a strong sense of how the memories of refugees color their view of life in the U.S. as well as how they feel about their former homeland. In many cases, a lot is intentionally forgotten because it was so hard to live through once, that memory only extends the horror and sadness. I really liked the book and felt it gave me insight into some attitudes I wasn't completely aware of.


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

Join Date: 02/18/15

Posts: 311

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RE: Does the novel succeed?

I felt the novel succeeded, although it was difficult to read and keep track of the relationships. I think it definitely succeeded in teaching about Cambodia and what was happening there to the people and the government. It was also successful in explaining why we remember certain things and why the mind chooses to block out other memories.


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

Join Date: 05/24/11

Posts: 87

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RE: Does the novel succeed?

Yes the novel succeeds as an expression of the dichotomy of feelings of survivors and refugees. It is a bit difficult to read but that enhances the deep feelings that are buried and not always entirely revealed.


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

Join Date: 06/19/12

Posts: 215

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RE: Does the novel succeed?

To tell the truth, I did not much like this book. While I can appreciate the author's feelings and her personal experience, I did not get a sense of story from her -- lots of philosophy and much musing, yes, but I felt the point could have been more deftly made with more fully developed characters and an a more structured plot. I got lost in the pattern of introducing a character, then reading his or her thoughts on life, war, or whatever, with the occasional burst of storytelling. It took a long time to find out what happened between Sokhon and Tun -- mostly because Teera, Tun, the abbot, and Narunn all had to offer their philosophical reflection on life and war first. I'd rather have seen the lessons drawn from their stories. No for me, the novel did not succeed.


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

Join Date: 10/12/11

Posts: 193

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RE: Doe,s the novel succeed?

The book succeeds because I feel the author achieves her purpose. Ratner adeptly reveals the angst of the Cambodian people in maintaining their Cambodian identity, the complexities in searching for the truth, facing the truth, accepting the consequences of one's actions, forgiveness and redemption, and moving on to build a new life. Teera came home again and found that she COULD.


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

Join Date: 02/17/18

Posts: 6

RE: Does the novel succeed?

The gradual unpacking or unpeeling of the various life stories works the way memory or encounters among strangers operate. The author takes a lot of risks with her structure. The overall book is painful to read the way the more familiar Holocaust narratives are. But it is worth the effort to read a book like this to understand the full range of human experience. Not everything is Leave it to Beaver.

Also I would note that the pain and horror is somewhat tempered by the interweaving of the sound of music and the pleasure of playing traditional instruments. The pleasurable experience of hearing instrumental music or the music in nature adds an optimistic note (pun intended). Life may be almost unbearable and then a small musical experience lessens the pain and shows a way forward.


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

Join Date: 04/03/17

Posts: 25

RE: Does the novel succeed?

Yes, in that it ties together what is now “history” to those who live in present day. It is just a tough read to get there. I feel she does a good job in describing the world there. A little too “lyrical” perhaps.


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: Does the novel succeed?

Yes and no, I found the beginning of the book (at least the first 150 pages!) to be confusing and not very interesting because I couldn't connect with either the story or the characters. It was WORK to get through those first pages until things started to make sense and the characters had enough life to them to be engaging. The writing was wonderful and that is what initially kept me reading. Her phrases and descriptions were breath taking. In many ways I agree with Laurap.


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

Join Date: 06/13/11

Posts: 235

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RE: Does the novel succeed?

I am not sure. I think I should read her other book. I know that entire families disappeared so I think if the author’s aim was to tell the story, it was good. I am not clear on the beginning of events in Cambodia and am still not..


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

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 1584

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RE: Does the novel succeed?

Peggy -- you may find our "beyond the book" article about the Khmer Rouge for Ratner's first book, In the Shadow of the Banyan Tree" helpful: https://www.bookbrowse.com/mag/btb/index.cfm/book_number/2755/in-the-shadow-of-the-banyan#btb


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

Join Date: 06/16/11

Posts: 410

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RE: Does the novel succeed?

I think it ultimately does but it took a while. I found the book revealing a lot that I think none of us knew of what happened with the Khmer Rouge nor the horror of the lives affected. I totally liked the books writing while hating to be reading about all the suffering and death inflicted on the citizens.


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

Join Date: 03/22/12

Posts: 323

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RE: Does the novel succeed?

I think the novel does succeed. As indicated in an earlier question, it brought back a lot of memories of a trip i took a few years back. The people and the scenes were very much as I remembered. The accounting of history, pretty much as I remembered. It is not my favorite read but I will rembember it, which is more than i can say for every book. Again, it makes me sad about mans inhumanity to man.


Posted Apr. 19, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
sylviaann

Join Date: 01/14/18

Posts: 20

RE: Does the novel succeed?

I believe this novel does succeed. Ratner paints vivid pictures, creates sympathetic characters whose grief we share, and offers meaningful reflections, the best of which are offered via the dialogue of others.


Posted Apr. 27, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
kate

Join Date: 01/22/11

Posts: 53

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RE: Does the novel succeed?

I agree with some of the other readers in that it took a while to get into the story, but once I did; it was a good novel. Ratner does a wonderful job of creating characters that the reader cares about and is invested in what becomes of them. Her writing is beautiful to read which helps when reading such an emotional subject matter.


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

Join Date: 12/03/11

Posts: 185

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RE: Does the novel succeed?

It took me a long time to read this book. The narrative structure and the subject matter were difficult for me, but as I said in the post about "difficult read," it was ultimately worth it. Radner created characters about whom I cared, and her writing is beautiful and lyrical, as befits a novel in which music plays an important role. So for me, the novel indeed succeeded.


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