HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Book Review

Book Review: by Lang Reid


An interesting book this week, which emanates from Chiang Mai in all respects. “Siranee” (ISBN 978-974-7313-86-4, Citylife publications) was written by JC Shaw and released this year. Citylife is well known (and read) in Chiang Mai, and the author a long-stay resident in the North. The book is also set predominantly in Chiang Mai.
It is a work of ‘faction’ with the fiction definitely based on factual experiences, in which an English Don meets the former Miss Chiang Mai, who progresses to become Miss Thailand and then a finalist in the Miss Universe competition. Unfortunately this is considered the zenith for most Thai women’s ambition.
The male lead (David) falls in love with this Thai goddess and comes to Thailand, taking up both a teaching role at CMU and Honorary British Consul in the North.
He does meet up with his Miss Thailand and much of the book revolves around the love affair he has with her, and the ‘convenience’ affair she has with him. As the liaison develops, in true Thai fashion, the family is then brought in, with the younger sister also moving into the domestic scene. The Thai familial interplay makes up much of the book and this is well crafted by author Shaw.
The workings of Thai society at the Hi-So level are laid bare, and the reader does not need to exercise much imagination to put a name to some of the godfathers, generals and others mentioned, and how they all interact and how the patronage system is alive and well. And that especially relates to how a girl with beauty can leverage herself up within the high society which is portrayed as having all of the ceremony and trappings of the western model, but none of the substance!
On the other side of the Thai coin there is the sister Siranee. She left home at 16, being unable to meet the psychological problems of being the younger sibling of someone deemed as ‘famous’. She becomes a singer in a seedy bar in Chiang Mai and the seedy society is also well dissected. Although the singers will go “off” with customers, they consider themselves far from being prostitutes, who also work out of the same premises, sitting on show behind the glass wall. And are really no different from the Hi-So beauties!
Spliced into the narrative are vignettes of David’s experiences as the Honorary Consul, and a few of these are added in to the end of the book as stand-alone items. These are interesting in a somewhat voyeuristic mode, but unfortunately some have already been incorporated in previous chapters of the book proper, giving them all somewhat of a ‘make-weight’ characteristic.
One very annoying aspect to the book is the failure of the proof-readers to understand the role of the hyphen. Now this may be considered as nit-picking by me, but the hyphen can denote both association of words and disassociation. To use “make-weight” as an example, it is quite different from “make – weight”. Perhaps a correction in the next print-run (as opposed to print – run)?
A good read at B.300 from bookshops (B. 250 from Citylife office).