Review: The Rainbow Troops by Andrea Hirata

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Title: The Rainbow Troops

Author: Andrea Hirata

Published: Vintage January 2013

Synopsis: Ikal is a student at Muhammadiyah Elementary, on the Indonesian island of Belitong, where graduating from sixth grade is considered a major achievement. His school is under constant threat of closure. In fact, Ikal and his friends – a group called The Rainbow Troops – face threats from every angle: pessimistic, corrupt government officials; greedy corporations hardly distinguishable from the colonialism they’ve replaced; deepening poverty and crumbling infrastructure; and their own faltering self-confidence. But in the form of two extraordinary teachers, they also have hope, and Ikal’s education is an uplifting one, in and out of the classroom.

Status: Read from January 22 to 24, 2013 — I own a copy {Courtesy Random House Australia}

My Thoughts:

The Rainbow Troops is a remarkable debut novel by a young man who once promised his schoolteacher he would write a book in her honor. Inspired by Hirata’s own childhood experiences on the tiny, isolated island of Belitong, on the east coast of Sumatra, this is the poignant story of ten young children from among the islands poorest families, and their struggle to gain the education they are guaranteed under Indonesian law.

On his first day at Belitong’s only free school, Muhammadiyah Elementary, Ikal breathes a sigh of relief when the tenth child the school needs to remain operational appears at enrollment at the last minute, saving him from being sent to work as a helper at the grocery market or a coolie (labourer) for the miners or fishermen to supplement his family’s meagre income. As he takes his seat in the ramshackle building which contains not much more than a chalkboard and a few desks and chairs he marvels at the opportunity he has been given, ignoring the leaking roof, “…a roof with leaks so large that students see planes flying in the sky and have to hold umbrellas while studying on rainy days”, crumbling concrete floors and missing wall planks. In front of Ikal stands fifteen year old Bus Mus, the new class teacher, and school supervisor, Pak Harfan. Beside him sits nine other children, the Rainbow Troops.

Though simply written, this is an inspiring tale of struggle against adversity told with warmth, humour and tenderness. The children, the Rainbow Troops, will capture your heart as Ikal shares their stories, recounting his friends achievements, triumphs and tragedies as they struggle to claim their right to an education. There is Lintang who leaves his home at dawn to pedal the 40km to school each day, dodging crocodiles and wading through flood waters, never missing a day, Mahar whose imagination entertains them all with stories and Haran who sits, smiling happily, in class even though he doesn’t understand a word. learning what becomes of these ten (later 11) children is both heartbreaking and revealing.

The Rainbow Troops is also a story of quiet rebellion. Belitong lies in the shadow of the giant PN tin mining company who, with government approval, strip the land of its riches while caring nothing for its native citizens. Muhammadiyah Elementary educates its students with few resources, it’s teachers are unpaid and it is constantly threatened with closure but it fights the injustice with everything it has.

It is impossible to read The Rainbow Troops and not be moved by such an incredible story that is more fact than fiction. With memorable characters, irresistible charm and touching simplicity, this is a story that reminds us to appreciate what we have but also to strive for what we want most. This is a story the world should know.

‘Laskar Pelangi’ was a phenomenal success when published in Indonesia in 2005, an immediate bestseller, spawning a TV series and film. This is the first of four novels Hirata has penned in the interim, and the first to be translated into English, now on the cusp of global release.

Available To Purchase

@Random House Australia I @BoomerangBooks I @Booktopia I @Amazon Kindle

via Booko

@Amazon US I @BookDepository

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From Random House Australia

Win a copy of our Book of the Month for January 2013 – THE RAINBOW TROOPS – the Indonesian record-breaking bestseller, in the tradition of Slumdog Millionaire and Shantaram.

 

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Margaret Lynette Sharp
    Jan 26, 2013 @ 20:22:03

    Sounds like an inspiring, outstanding work!

    Like

    Reply

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