Book Review: State of War by Ninotchka Rosca

State of War
by Ninotchka Rosca
ISBN: 9712716945

Synopsis:

The main narrative focuses on the festival in an island called "K" attended by Anna, Adrian and Eliza. Anna is just recovering from a terrifying experience after having been interrogated by the intelligence unit of the military, with Colonel Urbano Amor leading the mental torture. During her stay, she teaches the children of the island. Meanwhile, Eliza tries to make Adrian and Anna fall in love and become a couple. Colonel Amor, who is Eliza's patron-lover, arrives at the island to hound Adrian and discover the young man's connections. Anna, who has not lost her dissidence, cooperates with an innovative rebel group planning to bomb the festival. In the midst of the chaos and disorder, Anna discovers that she is with child and names her unborn baby boy Ismael Villaverde Banyaga.
The novel also traces the violent colonial history of the Philippines, showing similarities and relationships in historical events through the memories of the characters. One prominent tracing back is that of Anna's relationship with Maya, a former babaylan or priestess. Maya was the mistress of the village priestt, Friar Villaverde, and was protected by the priest's powers. However, she suffers from tauntings. To redeem her stature, she collects favors villagers want to ask from the priest, but for a fee.

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I read this book as part of our reading list for my English Literature back in my second year of college. I was first apprehensive about this book since I almost never read novels penned by my country's authors. I know, I know, I am so unpatriotic.

But it was required reading and we need to report about the intricacies of the story behind the story. So with a sigh and some muttering I delved into the book.
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I know most of us, including me, despair of our history subject in school since it would be so boring. I also might've zombied through most of my classes... but the thing is, it all depends on the teacher and the manner of teaching he/she would employ. And I was lucky to have a wonderful history teacher in college - her  way of teaching was a big leap from the insufficient and skewed history taught to us in high school. In college, I learned many things in my country's history that are not in grade school and high school books... things that were lost in translation, crushed and buried by our colonizers, and forgotten by the local historians at the time.

The book, State of War, does not concern (much) itself with the main events and people so sensationalized by the mainstream history books. It, instead, follows the lives of 'ordinary' people - people who were, in reality, the ones who were in the midst of the chaos.. the ones who really experienced the littlest important events. It took me behind the scenes and let me experience the effects of the 'big' events on the masses. 

It did not give me shit about how great this hero was or what happened this bigwig in history. They were important, yes, but what always bugged me was what was happening with the people. I don't want to know what was generally happening to them but I want their personal accounts.

The book's main characters are fictional but they sure did engaged me and made my reading experience magnifique. Reading this book never made me feel that it was a school requirement (which is always a chore!)

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1 comment:

  1. hi there! I need your help. I need to fully understand the whole book and make it into a stage play that will be played by us for 30 mins, and eventhough I have read it, there are some parts that I can't understand nor think of a better alternative way of creating that scene, will you please help me? need to have a summary the whole story.. synopsis is not enough for me to understand the whole book xD.. I'm sorry for the trouble.

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