Wednesday, April 20, 2011
David Young has written seven solid, humorous books set in Thailand. Two of which, Sukhumvit Road and this the latest Khao San Road are, I believe, his best to date.
Like Sukhumvit Road, khao San is written in the third person and with the god’s eye view looking over Bangkok. The novel follows the lives of a number of characters who become entangled together over a period of days. This is the first of Young’s novels, that avoids the bar-scene completely instead concentrating on a hodgepodge of crazies living, holidaying and scamming around the backpacker ghetto.
Daniel is a backpacker looking to discover himself whilst grieving the loss of his elder brother. Merlin is a back-packing guru reality television producer. Two upcountry Thai teachers hit the road looking to recruit foreign language teachers (despite not being able to speak much in the way of English themselves.) Bud, a drop-out con-man meets his estranged wife Kemmy who has travelled east with her new self-help-book-writing-flash-packing fiancé. Episodic events clash into one another with all the familiar humour and skill that separates Young from the majority of Bangkok writers.
Characterization is one of the author’s strengths, his plots develop as the cast become aware of the increasingly crazy world of Thailand. Their lives weave in and out of each other’s. Conflict and humour lay in the differences of culture between the foreigners and the natives.
This book, along with the others is written for an audience of expats that have begun to learn a little about the country that they’ve found themselves wallowing in. There’s a truck load of tongue-in-cheek and insider jokes that the uninitiated Thai- curious may not appreciate at first. This doesn't matter. Young's found his audience and has yet to put a foot wrong in entertaining them.
I don’t expect to read a better Thailand fiction novel than Khao San Road this year.