Item description for The Spice Garden by Michael Vatikiotis...
Christians and Muslims fall upon one another in horrific killing sprees in this white-knuckle thriller about religious violence. This tale, based on true accounts of the religious violence that has erupted in the Maluku archipelago since 1999, explores the motives and effects of Islamic militancy as it clashes with a strong Christian community in a new era of religious conflict that afflicts the world today. Not to be missed, this book offers solutions that might save whole nations from a cycle of violence that threatens them every day.
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Michael Vatikiotis has worked as a writer and journalist in Southeast Asia for more than thirty years and was a correspondent for the Far East Economic Review in Jakarta for five years. Jill Gocher's pictures have been published in scores of books and magazines around the world, including National Geographic, Time and The International Herald Tribune.
Reviews - What do customers think about The Spice Garden?
Quite Good Mar 1, 2004
This book is a decent summary of the inter-religious strife that hit Maluku (the Moluccas) in Eastern Indonesia between 1999 and 2002. Though written as a novel, the author has obviously done his research and tried to summarize all factors, events and characters involved in the real conflict in a short book.
On the positive side, his general conclusions about the causes of the conflict are pretty correct. He has even managed to remain more impartial than most Westerners writing about this conflict by pointing out that attrocities were also commited by the Christian side, and even making a Muslim the main hero of his story. The role of the Army and the character of its leaders are also well-described.
The devil is in the details, which are more errorous. The island he describes is placed in South Maluku, yet has a neglected sultan - in reality sultans only ever ruled North Maluku, where they have always commanded much respect. The South has rajas instead, both among Christian and Muslim communities. The main spice of the fantasy-island is called "noli" - but its description is so obviously of nutmeg that it left me wondering why call it by any other name? The chronology of the events described is wrong. For one, he claims that strife in Ambon started with Muslims attacking the Christian-run market! Anyone familiar with Ambon knows that until the troubles Muslims ran the markets there, which was in fact correspondingly burned by Christians first. Then the incident of forced islamization on Kesui is described as having happened soon after the initial outbreak of violance - in reality it happened much later... Generally, the long phases of the conflict that took 4 years to run its full course in reality take place in a matter of days, weeks and months in this book - which might well leave readers bewildered on how things can change so rapidly. And while the characters are nice and moving, I found them less than life-like - but more idealization of them might be justified in what is a novel after all.
Maybe I only noticed the above as I myself spent much time throughout Maluku during this conflict over the past years and hope to have got to know its people and history better than most visitors. This has probably made me a somewhat critical reader - but even so I would still say that all things considered, the author has tackled the difficult task of making this cruel conflict comprehensible to the wider public pretty well.