Most helpful positive review
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Engaging and informative
on 22 August 2013
During the 8 years I spent living in Java in the 2000s, I was often frustrated by the dearth of accessible English-language reading material on the history and culture of Indonesia. Most of what was available then (back in the pre-kindle days) was either dry specialist academic texts, travel guides or poorly translated Dutch works. Most of the knowledge I picked up during that time was patched together from speaking to Indonesians and long-term ex-pats, visiting places of interest and reading the odd travel guide. As I am unable to speak Dutch or read old Javanese, and there is sadly a lack of easily- accessible museums and archives in Indonesia, going to source material to fill in the gaps wasn't an option. Therefore I'm glad that Tim Hannigan did all the hard work for me and only wish he had done it ten years earlier!
Back in Indonesia on holiday this summer I finally got round to reading this book. It is a fascinating read, written in an accessible style which keeps up your interest throughout. It not only deals with this less well-known period in Raffles' life but with many side characters and also with contemporary Javanese culture. For me there were many recognisable descriptions and several `aha! moments' where I discovered (or had confirmed) explanations for various Javanese quirks that still endure to today.
If you are merely looking for a highly-detailed account of British military manoeuvres in Java, you will probably be disappointed. If you are a committed Rafflesophile, you will likely baulk at the critical handling of the man and his dubious actions during this time. If however, like the author, you have a passion for this bewitching country and are looking for insight into this period, the people and the culture, you will thoroughly enjoy this read.