Kim Echlin - The Disappeared
This post digresses back to the Writersfest which I attended in Kingston, Ontario in September of this year. Kim Echlin was an author there that caught my attention. It was during an On Stage event called ‘Women Without Borders’ where I heard Kim read from The Disappeared which was, at that time, long listed for the Giller. It was announced on October 6 of this year that Kim Echlin’s book made the shortlist for the 2009 Giller Prize.
The Disappeared is the current book that graces the top of the pile beside my bed each night. It is a love story between a young Canadian girl, Anne, and her slightly older Cambodian lover, Serey set during the Cambodian genocide under The Pol Pot Regime. They met in a café in Old Montreal, had an immediate and intense love affair and moved in together. However, as soon as the Cambodian borders opened, Serey was compelled to seek out his family there. He returns to Cambodia promising to be in touch as soon as possible. Many years go by and many letters have been written by Anne, but she hears nothing from Serey. Eventually she travels to Cambodia in search of her long lost love.
The language in this book is romantic, contains beautiful phrases and seamlessly flows from English to French, from Latin to Khmer. The chapters in this book are confined and epigrammatic in nature which perfectly parallels the settings described such as crowded bars, small bedrooms and inside rickshaws. It is told using both narrative and poetic writing.
I have read some mixed reviews about this book. The Quill and Quire’s Steven W. Beattie does begin admirably with “Great love stories are inseparable from tragedy.” Unfortunately, he notes that “the language is merely clichéd…it employs overheated metaphor to communicate ineffable desire”
But for the most part the book is receiving positive reviews like the one printed in The National Post by playwright and editor Frank Moher who says “The Disappeared is an expert novel, which manages to penetrate to the aching core of the Cambodian tragedy.”
All in all, I think this is a fantastic piece of love told through historical fiction, and Kim Echlin is definitely a Canadian author to watch for and certainly read.