Tuesday, 23 February 2021

[MPOV] Map of the Invisible World

My rating: 2.5/5
Goodreads rating: 3.41/5
Published: April 28th, 2009
Author: Tash Aw
Genre: Asian literature, fiction

From the author of the internationally acclaimed, Costa Award-winning The Harmony Silk Factory comes an enthralling new novel that evokes an exotic yet turbulent and often frightening world.

16-year-old Adam is an orphan three times over. He and his older brother, Johan, were abandoned by their mother as children; he watched as Johan was adopted and taken away by a wealthy couple; and he had to hide when Karl, the Dutch man who raised him, was arrested by soldiers during Sukarno’s drive to purge 1960s Indonesia of its colonial past.

Adam sets out on a quest to find Karl, but all he has to guide him are some old photos and letters, which send him to the colourful, dangerous capital, Jakarta. Johan, meanwhile, is living a seemingly carefree, privileged life in Malaysia, but is careening out of control, unable to forget the long-ago betrayal of his helpless, trusting brother.

Map of the Invisible World is a masterful novel, and confirms Tash Aw as one of the most exciting young writers at work today.

#tbntbookchallenge for February: A book with a Southeast Asian main character OR set in Southeast Asia.
#tbntbookchallenge Bonus: A book by an author TBNT has interviewed / featured.

This novel mainly sets in Indonesia during the 1960's when the country was filled with political unrest. It started off with Adam who was suddenly abandoned when his stepfather, Karl, was taken by the soldiers. He knew he has an older brother, Johan, who was adopted by a couple prior to him but he could not remember him or anything from the orphanage. As such, with what little he knows and have, he embarked to Jakarta seeking Karl's long lost friend, Margaret, for help. 

Over in Malaysia, Johan is filled with guilt on abandoning his little brother, Adam, and always in a destructive mode. His stepfamily tried their best to sooth and understand him but to no avail since they do not allow the only subject his mind is full of, the little brother he left behind.

The story was told in alternate view points of Adam and Johan. The distinct difference in writing also indicates the variance i.e. Johan's was written as if he's dreaming it. I liked that so it would not be as confusing. Also Indonesia's setting was more obvious with many details as opposed to Malaysia.

The premise of the story was actually interesting including an assassination attempt on the Indonesian President which made it more realistic. However, with some historical background mostly of Margaret with her connections to Karl, Bill and Mick somehow deviate into a little romance. Even both Adam and Johan have their own hook up along the way. 

This novel was a total opposite to The Harmony Silk Factory (THSF) in writing where I've enjoyed THSF way much more than this. From the start to the end, this novel fell flat for the most part and only peaked a little toward the end. I found it hard to continue reading it and nearly DNF it midway but I forced myself to speed read through to finish it. It sure was a relief to finally read the ending and to complete 2 goals for TBNT Book Challenge (February and Bonus)!

A couple of quotes that caught my attention:
It is the non-verbal communication between human beings that forms the basis of all society.
Sometimes, Karl often told him, it is better not to own things, especially precious things, because they will be lost or taken away; things cannot last beyond your lifetime.

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