Holiday in Cambodia is an invigorating, nuanced portrayal of life in the kingdom today. Laura Jean McKay’s characters, described with empathy and affection, sashay through a series of crisp but well-rounded vignettes. McKay moves beyond the usual cliches of the beauty of Angkor Wat and the horror of the Khmer Rouge, though these do feature too.
With a light hand, McKay explores the clash of the West with local lives. The results are sometimes poignant, and sometimes humorous, but always realistic. McKay also travels back to pre-Khmer Rouge times. In one of her strongest stories, she looks at languid life in a seaside resort in the twilight zone before the civil war hit.
This collection is essential reading for those looking for more than the usual tropes about the kingdom in literature today. They explore some uncomfortable truths of the frontier between rich and poor. And they evoke a country where people struggle with modernity just as much as in any other. The veil of their own historical legacy though creates a shifting and often menacing shadow, and it's these darker corners McKay excels in exploring.
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