Beauty is a Wound by Eka Kurniawan
Reviewed by Gillian, Berkelouw Books, Mona Vale
The life story of renowned beauty (and prostitute) Dewi Ayu, takes us through the tumultuous history of modern Indonesia from independence, through Japanese occupation and the rise of Indonesian strong men.
Dewi Ayu's village, Halimunda, is subject to the upheaval affecting the whole country as it emerges into nationhood. Dewi Ayu's clientele changes with the shifting balance of power. Along with her three beautiful daughters she manages alliances that are protective, but the fortunes of their fellow citizens - the fisherman, the rickshaw driver, the gravedigger - are wildly buffeted by feuds and vendettas, and the ghosts of the murdered multiply, secrets stir in dark corners and superstition abounds.
This all sounds very serious, but this book gallops and careers through the bloody mayhem with vivid detail and raucous humour. In turns horrifying and dazzling, this novel confronts and entertains.