From one of the most influential authors of Southeast Asia, this book, first in a series, was written by Toer while he was a political prisoner in the island prison of Buru in the 1970s. It started as a verbal narration to his fellow inmates in 1973, and was written down only in 1975 after he was granted permission by the authorities. The book saw publication in 1980 through the efforts of his fellow former detainees, but was immediately banned by the Indonesian government. The book is a compelling tale of love and colonialism. Set in the early 20th century, it is the story of Minke, a brilliant Javanese young man aspiring to be a writer, in the Dutch colony. His family being of local nobility and his talent enables him to become the only native student in the elite Dutch school in Java. He falls in love with Annelies, a mixed-blood daughter of an astute concubine of a prominent Dutch businessman and who now runs the vast enterprise. The strong-willed mother defies the stereotype of a concubine in this highly stratified society, she learns how to read, speak other languages, run a successful business, and shares Minke's progressive ideas. The family is ostracised by the community, and they are surrounded by intrigues. They pay dearly for their being themselves. A thought-provoking novel that underlines the cycle of abuse and repression under Dutch colonial rule, and the struggle of natives against the injustice perpetuated by the distant but powerful government that prevailed in every aspect of theiir lives. The theme is heavy and serious. Events in the novel turn for the worse, like a big drama unfolding. I felt, however, that in many instances, the language is a bit contrived, and the sequence of events which in normal life would happen over a stretch of time, felt shortened, compressed into narrow time periods. Perhaps it's got something to do with the fact that Toer wrote this from memory a few years after he made up the story. I also have a feeling that the translation was not very good, so the language didn't quite flow as I felt it should have. I also felt that the characters, sometimes, didn't seem real, they acted too much out of impulse. At any rate, this book is still a highly recommended read. It's a book I've been wanting to read for years, only managing to get hold of a copy recently in a secondhand bookshop. The theme being what it is, and the development of the story, I think would make for a very interesting group read and discussion.