The story basically was about a group of student at University of Malaya in Singapore in 1950's. The protagonist in this book took the name of Ayu, a gentle Malay girl who drop medicine study to be a writer.
I was lost a bit when I read the first few pages but then it started to flow. It started out when she was ragged at the university by Han, the Cynic. Already it touched on the sensitive subjects of racism.
And yep, you was right. The main theme that link all these different circumstances in this book is race relations, reflecting the general state of the Malayan at that period in time.
The tension that growing between the races concerns Ayu. This makes her explore variety of situatioins involving her characters that will brought you flashback after flashbacks; remembering conversation among childhood friends, the loss of her father and her friends when Japanese invaded Malaya, her mother's fight for independence, her hatred towards the British, etc, including Han's family history. Adibah Amin brought you to and fro to the future seamlessly which is a great thing otherwise it could be rather confusing.
The situations and questions being posed is recognizable and all too familiar in today Malaysian societies. The only difference is the issues are not presented as frankly and as unbiased as it did back then.
All the characters (and they are many of them) are very believable. This probably because many are based on real people known to Adibah. For example Ayu's mother is obviously inspired by the authur's own mother, the Umno freedom-fighter, Ibu Zain.
Han in my opinion is the most memorable character in this book. Han's family were murdered by the Malays during communist terror. It was because of misunderstanding between these two races. The Malays saw Chinese as one of the communist while the Chinese saw the Malays as 'pak turut' communist. It took sometimes for him to realize the pain truth. He who was expelled for the ragging incident form a multi-racial political society to ease racial tension. He tried to coaxed Ayu to joined the group but Ayu refused for her own reasons.
There was also Rizal, who Ayu claimed remains as good friend. I can surely sense the romance between these two.
The most touching part on this book for me when Adibah narrated the fight that Dato' Onn and the other independence figure fought for Independence. Almost brought tears to my eyes.
It is the same fresh, simple and direct style as her writing through her column As I Was Passing in the NST. This book is an easy read, and it is also eye-opening, especially if you are not familiar with Malaysia’s pre-independence days and the social unrest of the 1950s. I am not ashamed to admit that I was pretty shocked myself to learn what had happened during that period. This is the kind of ignorance that Adibah wants to educate in this book of hers.