When I started looking for a book from Thailand I realized that my mind drew a blank. I could not come up with any Thai authors names, or any books. This surprised me, so it was time to start digging. Since I had no memory of encountering Thai books in the past, I had no expectations. Very quickly I found Bangkok Wakes to Rain by Pitchaya Sudbanthad, and off I was to read it.
The book is set in the past, present, and future. The main protagonist is Bangkok, or Siam, or New Krungthep, depending on where on the timeline you are. It is written from several different perspectives; an aging American Jazz musician, a missionary, and a woman who lost her lover at an anti-government protest. It feels more like reading several short stories that are loosely connected to each other than actually reading a consistent novel.
The stories are not told chronologically, and it can at times be confusing for the reader to figure out who is doing what, when, and where. I know a lot of readers enjoy this kind of disorientation, but sadly I am not one of them. I do enjoy reading about the turbulent history of the country and its capital. There are so many stories to be told, and so little space in a fiction book like this.
I remember Bangkok as being hot, hectic, and chaotic, and in many ways the book is the same, and I therefore think it’s a good reflection of what could have happened to people during different eras, and a great dedication to the city. It is well-written but could have been edited better. I find it hard to connect with the characters in the book. I know this book divides readers, which I find being a good thing. Only way to know if it works for you is to read it!