book-reviews


The Long Day Wanes: A Malayan Trilogy

Time for a Tiger

Rating: ★★★

As character comedy and 'wit', the two qualities praised on the binding, this would probably be sub-par for me. The humour rests mostly on how awful the characters all are, which is amusing for a bit but gradually just ends up depressing. The main character is a nasty alcoholic type, always borrowing or stealing money to get a drink, presuming on the hospitality of others and occasionally resorting to threats of violence to get his way. As part of the joke, he ends up rich beyond belief.

As plot also, it's not great. It doesn't really go anywhere, the various characters just find themselves mixed together and hang around drinking, the men telling stories while the woman cries because of how much she hates the country and wants to go home (her husband won't leave, though even he's not clear as to why).

Where the novel has some value, however, is in its highly-convincing sense of place. Burgess thrusts a stark, unfiltered view of Malaysia at us, an eastern melting-pot filled with grift and vice and hidden tensions. There is a lot of believable detail, and though I don't particularly like the sound of the seedy, sweaty setting, I can appreciate the effort taken to convey it.