This is the first local storybook I have read ever since I stepped foot out of high school >.< Yes, sad to say but that's the truth -.-
In high school, we were forced to read books like Bukit Kepong, Meniti Kaca, etc for BM literature. But The Dulang Washer, although set in a local vicinity with local characters, it was in English.
It was written by Paul Callan, an Irishman who married a Malaysian wife and have stayed in Malaysia for the last 5 years. This is his first novel published by MPH.
Paul Callan visited my mom's workplace to promote his book and she received a complimentary one from him and kindly passed it to me. Hence, I've got a signed copy of his book.
This book portrays a fictitious story with a real background story of the hardship of tin miners in the 19th century in the area of Kinta Valley, Perak. This also follows a love story between Aisha, the dulang washer and the man who she will marry later. It is quite a fascinating read because although I live in Malaysia, my knowledge about that time of the history is nil. Well, my knowledge about any history is nil anyway -.-
Paul researched quite a lot for this book and travels regularly to Perak for two years, at the same time researched in the National Library for months about the local culture and the Chinese and Indian immigrants. Hence, I would applaud him, as a foreigner depicting what happened years ago in the tin mining industry. It's like a foreigner teaching Malaysians their own history LOL
The hardship of the immigrants working in Malaysia to send money back, but betrayed by the mine's proprietor due to greed, the hardships of the dulang washerwomen working hard to support their families and the miner's addiction to opium and whores are all very real yet quite saddening.
The only thing that irks me is that Paul loves to describe things to a T! When he describes a scenery, he could go on forever on the beauty of it. For example: "the sun was now up at its fiercest, like a furnace with its embers at their dazzling peak. Against a pandemonium of monkey sounds, chirping and whistling, buzzing and humming, the mine announced its presence with the scraping and banging of picks and shovels..." and it goes on till half a page.
Hats off to his vocabulary because I, for one, tend to describe things at a maximum of three words (Awesome picturesque scenery!) that's all, hence, I cannot appreciate authors who goes on and on describing all the little things of a scenery/thing/person.
But still, for a first time novelist, I really appreciate his effort. In addition, since he wanted to portray what really happened, he did use many Hakka words(with translation of course!) because most miners were Hakkas. He also managed to incorporate some Cantonese, Malays and Tamil words as well!
Further, The Dulang Washer was nominated by Popular Books for the Popular Readers' Choice Awards 2012 under the Fiction Category. Callan was also chosen by Popular as Author for the month of May 2012.
At the launch of his book with Dr. Ng Yen Yen.
He will be releasing his second book soon!