Publish Date: 30th January, 2013
Published By: Shadow Mountain
Source: Free on Amazon
Synopsis: “Sarann and the Prince of Angkor: A Cambodian Cinderella Story,” is just one of many pieces of literature that weave into the plot of The Rent Collector, a novel by Camron Wright.” (Source: Amazon product description.)
Short version: Beautiful in its emotional austerity. Read it.
Longer version: My initial vision for this brand-new book review blog was as a space to review new writers, or self-published writers whose works are in danger of being lost in the flood of self-published e-books available on Amazon and elsewhere online. Wright is neither a new nor an obscure writer, and Sarann was published in its own right nearly two years ago, but it’d be wrong to not give Sarann its due meed of praise just because I missed the boat initially.
I’ll freely admit, however, that I’m still relatively new to Kindle, to Amazon and frankly, to anything that has been published this century. So I was woefully ignorant of Wright’s novel, The Rent Collector, of which Sarann is an excerpt. This short work of only 24 pages works remarkably well as a stand-alone Cambodian fairy tale, with a framing device that was genuinely moving even outside of the context of the novel it occupies.
In a work so short, to explain in detail would be almost to rewrite it. The protagonist, Sang Ly, lives at Stung Meachey, Cambodia’s largest dump. She etches out a meagre living scavenging among the waste, something given much more attention and scope in the parent-work by Wright, The Rent Collector. Sopeap is her teacher, who introduces her to the Cinderella mythos in the shape of the story of Sarann, a Cambodian girl who escapes a wicked stepmother and apathetic stepsister to marry the Prince of Angkor.
Wright’s style is flawless, giving his characters strength and dignity largely by way of a restrained, almost reserved style and straightforward storytelling. The three female characters – Sang Ly, Sopeap and Sarann – come through strongly, particularly Sopeap, regardless of the small amount of narrative space allotted to her. This is a perfect “teaser” for The Rent Collector.
What really lifts Sarann and the Prince of Angkor up beyond being simply a Cambodian version of Cinderella is the follow-up conversation between Sang Ly and Sopeap. Why is the story of a downtrodden girl who marries a prince one we keep telling, across years and across culture?
“Can you tell me why you enjoyed it?”
Speaking to a teacher, I feel duty bound to offer a reasoned and thoughtful reply, one that recognises the story’s qualities. The truth, however, is much simpler. “It makes me happy.”
I’m sympathetic to Sang Ly on this one. Wright’s 24-page jewel of human understanding makes me happy.
On a brief and purely stylistic note, the body of the story of Sarann itself is in grey text on the Kindle version, which may be a little hard on the eyes of some people. I don’t know whether this is standard on all copies of the E-book or not.
Right. I’m off to find a copy of The Rent Collector.