The Rainbow Troops: A Novel


by Andrea Hirata
Author: Angie Kilbane

Format: Hardcover, English
304 page(s)
ISBN/ISBN13: 0374246319/978-0374246310
Published Feb 05, 2013 by Sarah Crichton Books

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Also see Laskar Pelangi (Tetralogi Laskar Pelangi #1)

Published in Indonesia in 2005, The Rainbow Troops, Andrea Hirata’s closely autobiographical debut novel, sold more than five million copies, shattering records. Now it promises to captivate audiences around the globe.

Ikal is a student at the poorest village school on the Indonesian island of Belitong, where graduating from sixth grade is considered a remarkable achievement. His school is under constant threat of closure. In fact, Ikal and his friends—a group nicknamed the Rainbow Troops—face threats from every angle: skeptical government officials, greedy corporations hardly distinguishable from the colonialism they’ve replaced, deepening poverty and crumbling infrastructure, and their own low self-confidence.

But the students also have hope, which comes in the form of two extraordinary teachers, and Ikal’s education in and out of the classroom is an uplifting one. We root for him and his friends as they defy the island’s powerful tin mine officials. We meet his first love, the unseen girl who sells chalk from behind a shop screen, whose pretty hands capture Ikal’s heart. We cheer for Lintang, the class’s barefoot math genius, as he bests the students of the mining corporation’s school in an academic challenge. Above all, we gain an intimate acquaintance with the customs and people of the world’s largest Muslim society.

This is classic storytelling in the spirit of Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner: an engrossing depiction of a milieu we have never encountered before, bursting with charm and verve.

The Rainbow Troops is not a work of great literature. The writing is unpolished, the prose so simple as to verge on the pedestrian. But arguably its rough edges enhance its emotional appeal. The story feels real, clearly written by someone who had lived it.
Pallavi Aiyar in The Rainbow Troops: A Visit with Indonesia’s Bestselling Author (Los Angeles Review of Books, Aug 30, 2013)
If it were not so gently told, this story would also be a savage critique of corporate greed and government corruption, but it's easy enough for the reader to see the grotesque gap between rich and poor without having it spelt out.
Kerryn Goldsworthy in The Rainbow Troops (The Sydney Morning Herald, Feb 23, 2013)
This is a charming and uplifting book, full of exotic Indonesian words. It makes for a refreshing break from the middle-class navel-gazing of most Western fiction.
Getting schooled (The Economist, Feb 09, 2013)

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