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Book Review

Book Review: by Lang Reid

Pool and its role in Asian Communism

As I sat down to re-read Pool and its role in Asian Communism, various noisy minority groups were running amok in Bangkok, attempting to pressurize the fall of the government.  I was immediately reminded of a statement in the author’s notes which went, “War is not a natural last resort of conflict.  It is merely the evidence that man is not intelligent enough to solve problems through dialogue and reason.”  Sadly, so true.

Colin Cotterill’s work has much depth and Pool and its role in Asian Communism (ISBN 974-8303-76-4, Asia Books 2005) is back on the Bookazine shelves at B. 450.

It begins in a billiard ball factory, with an aging Waldo, the black quality control officer training his replacement, a young Asian girl named Saifon.  The opening chapters build up the characters into very believable people, with author Cotterill ‘narrating’ in a “deep south” style which fits the characterizations, and does not appear forced.

During the first half of the book, you will be beginning to wonder just where “pool” and “Asian communism” comes in, other than in the billiard ball factory, but this very quickly becomes obvious as the action picks up and Waldo and Saifon come to Thailand and then on to Laos.

Laos, because that was Saifon’s home originally, a country being torn in every direction politically, as the “phony war” (now conveniently forgotten) was held on the Laotian soil.  When political ideology is replaced by common sense, the true suffering of the ordinary Laotian can begin to be appreciated.  For the children, displaced and abused, political ideology has much to answer for.

The crux of the story comes in Saifon’s dealing with her own psyche, damaged from having been a trafficked child too, when she was eight years old.  At first she thinks she is crusading for the groups of children who had also suffered, and were still suffering, but finally at one point, she realizes that getting the traffickers identified was actually her own catharsis.

The identification of one and the resulting Thai trial, marred by corruption (not unknown in Thailand even today) is pure theatre, but the way the truth comes out later brings a smile to the reader.

However, with two main characters, Aldo too had his story and his background that was there to haunt him, and his catharsis come out as he and Saifon discuss their lives.  Aldo may not have been trafficked, but he had no less of a psychological scar that needed to be healed.

What starts off as a very “simple” book, ends up as one of the deepest and darkest books you can read.  Whilst it is a work of fiction, there are real people on whom the book’s characters are based, including one in particular mentioned in the author’s note at the end of the book.

For B. 450, this book is worth it, even if just for that first quotation alone.  It is a disturbing book that will move you to tears.  An excellent read from a highly skilled author.  If you missed it first time, get it now.