This first novel from Cambodian born Vaddey Ratner is set over a four year period beginning with the takeover of government by the Khmer Rouge. Based on a true story the book tells the story of Raami who along with her family have to flee their Royal palace home and escape to the country. Soon the family’s world of carefully guarded royal privilege is swept up in the chaos of revolution and forced exodus. Over the next four years, as she endures the deaths of family members, starvation, and brutal forced labour, Raami clings to the only remaining vestige of childhood – the mythical legends and poems told to her by her father.

The autobiographical element of the story does come through in parts in what is essentially a very personal story making it a fascinating read and you want to know what happens in the end. She uses descriptions of meal time and food to portray how bad the situation was and write brilliantly about how a child copes with grief. The descriptions of the countryside as they are moved around or forced to flee are very evocative and would encourage you to visit Cambodia.

Sheila O’Reilly

Simon and Schuster/ISBN: 9781849837583/Hardback/£12.99