I haven’t posted a reading update in a while because I haven’t been reading that much. I’ve mostly been very slowly plugging away at Four Reigns this week (ok, that’s not entirely true. I’ve MOSTLY been grudge-reading P.D. James novels on my kindle in the middle of the night while waiting for my baby to fall back asleep, but that is beyond the scope of this particular reading project). It’s pleasant reading but not exactly a page-turner; mostly a nostalgic depiction of a bygone era.
I started Married to the Demon King by Susan Kepner and Sri Daoruang, which encompasses six stories based on a modernization of the Ramakien (itself a Thai version of the Ramayana) and also a brief critical introduction to the life and work of the Sri Daoruang, the stories’ author; I’m about halfway through but I left it in my car about two weeks ago and haven’t retrieved it.
I’ve been reading Katya and the Prince of Siam, the true story of a Russian woman who married prince Chakrabongse, second in line to the Siamese throne at the turn of the century. This dovetails nicely with Four Reigns, which covers the same time period—in both books I’ve just gotten to the death of King Chulalongkorn and the succession of his son Vajiravudh. Being written for an international audience, Katya and the Prince of Siam offers some complementary information that Kukrit Pramoj, writing for Thai readers who were already familiar with the history, did not feel necessary to include in Four Reigns. However. It’s extremely boring. I’m currently reading about Chakrabongse’s diplomatic visit to England for the coronation of George V, and it goes through every state dinner and event, and who sat next to whom, and what they ate, and how Chakrabongse felt about it. Katya, at that point, was visiting relatives in the Ukraine so I’m not even sure any of it is germane to the story. I keep almost giving up on it, but it is really helpful when I have trouble falling asleep at night so I may stick with it for a bit longer.
I’m also reading a bonus book from the Philippines, Insurrecto by Gina Apostel. I posted about her novel Gun Dealers’ Daughter a couple of weeks ago; Insurrecto is a more recent book, about an American filmmaker in the Philippines trying to make a film about the massacre of Filipinos at Balangiga by the US army in 1901, and her translator who is writing a competing script, and also her father who shot a Vietnam war movie in the Philippines in the 1970s. Elvis makes an appearance. The first four chapter numbers are: 20, 21, 3, 4. As you might guess from this description, this book is excessively postmodern—possibly too postmodern for my taste. The last chapter I read included a little admonitory aside about how readers shouldn’t expect to understand everything in a book, so I will continue reading with that scolding in mind. Still, I don’t want to disparage it too much; it’s definitely the best book I am currently reading and I think, on balance, that I am enjoying it so far.