Child of All Nations, by Pramoedya Ananta Toer
Last summer I read the first book in Pramoedya Ananta Toer's Buru quartet, This Earth of Mankind. I thought it was great, but it still took me a whole year to get to this second volume, which is also great. I'm definitely planning on reading the next two as well -- do I keep them for summer roadtrips, thus continuing the trend but taking four years to read the quartet, or do I go a little faster than that?
At the end of the first book, Minke's wife Annelies is forced to travel to the Netherlands; the Dutch colonial court has ruled that she is the ward of her father's Dutch relatives, and they want control of the extensive properties that Annelies' mother, a Native and a concubine, controls. Minke and Ma are left to mourn and wait for news from their employee who has secretly followed in order to encourage and watch over the despairing Annelies.
Annelies dies, ignored by her 'guardian,' and Minke is set upon a journey of enlightenment. He is a product of a European education and has always avoided his countrymen, but finally he begins to see that if he is going to be a writer, he must get to know his own land and people. Minke starts to realize just how the peasant farmers are exploited and how the colonial system works. He sails to start medical school, but is taken back by yet another long lawsuit concerning Ma's business and family members. In the end, the Dutch 'guardian' arrives, planning to dispossess Ma from all she has worked to build, and there is nothing they can do -- except to let him know just what they think of him.
A fascinating novel, and I thought probably better than the first. I'm intrigued to see what happens in the second half of Minke's story. This volume is pretty well entirely about coming to understand the workings of colonialism, but Minke seems to need even more knowledge before he can begin to act.