Brunei is a tiny country on the island of Borneo that I know basically nothing about. You can imagine my delight that it was quite easy to find a recently published book in English. My delight persisted as the book promised a “darkly humorous coming-of-age novel”, a journey to unravel secrets and to find yourself. Additionally, the cover is a gem – it’s artsy and beautifully crafted. Unfortunately, my delight did not persist while reading the novel.
The protagonist and narrator is ten-year-old Jonathan, who runs away from his grandfather’s funeral to – yes, to do what exactly? Find out why his mother is currently in Australia and on the way to Dubai for reasons that nobody wants to talk about? Find his estranged brother? The meandering style of the book makes it difficult to tell. Yes, this could be attributed to the narrative voice of a ten-year-old but in other aspects (language, style, his conversations with other people), Jonathan’s is not a very convincing voice of a child.
I stopped reading Written in Black about halfway through – not much of interest happened, the writing was long and convoluted, and, frankly, I just didn’t care what else would happen to Jonathan in the remainder of the book.
Title: Written in Black Author: K.H. Lim First published: 2014