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Book Review

Book Review: by Lang Reid

Wall Against the Wind

I noticed Wall Against the Wind (ISBN 978-974-88163-3-3) on the Bookazine shelves, and the fact that it had been published by Heaven Lake Press. Knowing that this publisher also has Christopher G Moore as one of its authors, was enough for me to pick it up, and inside was an appreciation to Christopher himself, described as author Jampee Tawylert’s mentor.
The book is autobiographical, though the name ‘Lamphai’ is used as the narrator of the very personal tale, which begins in 1971 and goes through to 1978. It details life in a poor north-eastern village, and just how the family continues, mainly through the good graces of other family members. Whilst not being a ‘collective’ in the socialist sense, village life does need its own blood line support.
The volatile relationship between the daughter Lamphai and her rather shiftless father is brought out, but again, blood is thicker than water. The loss of her elder brother is poignantly portrayed, but there was no lasting grief. The daily grind had to continue. Grow rice, dig for bamboo root, forage in the forest for food - or die. Experiences that we have been spared through geographical accident of birth.
At B. 595, it is at the upper end of paperbacks, but has a wealth of information. It shows that there is no true single ‘ethnicity’ in the Isaan peoples. It also brings out into the open the deeply superstitious nature of the people, who despite being Buddhist have some very strong beliefs in animism, obviously going back further than the 2,550 years of following the teachings of the Buddha.
The phrase ‘dirt poor’ would cover the family of Lamphai, whose mother worked all her life, not usually for money, but after harvesting rice for others, would be paid in rice for her labors.
The vignettes do truly show the life endured by these people. Birth and death are rolled into one. There is little ceremony for either. Life goes on, rice is planted, rice is harvested, rice is eaten. The women shoulder the brunt of the work, whilst the men resort to alcohol. It becomes easy to see just why the daughters have to look after the mothers in their old age. Lamphai in this book is only seven years old at the end, but has had the experience of someone seven times her age, including attempted incest, and is already taking on the trappings of maternal responsibility.
This is a fascinating book, which left many questions unfortunately not answered, the prime being just how did the author manage to get off the village carousel? Tantalizingly, it is said that she is now a painter and author and today lives in both London and Bangkok. How did she escape?
Acknowledgement is given to the translator and editorial assistants, as I presume that the book was written in the Thai language and then translated. The English expression is superb and is a tribute to all.
Anyone who has an interest in Thailand and its peoples should read this book. It may shock many, and it will educate all. A damn fine read.