Monday, June 10, 2019

36. The City of Gems by Joanna Trollope

I picked this up at the library sale.  It is the semi-fictional tale of the last monarch of Burma framed in the purely fictional (I believe) story of the European Colonials involved in their collapse.

Trollope paints an engrossing and fairly critical picture of the small gang of expats in Rangoon.  Though there are some decent characters, all of them are basically there to take advantage and exploit the resources.  I know the broad strokes of how Britian did this.  Reading about it in a story with all the details brings out how fucking awftul it all was.  The British trade with the monarch for the right to harvest the teak forests and dig up the ground.  In return, they bring them European "treasures" and try to curry favour with the capricious queen.  When it seems like the French are making a move to get these franchises, the British send in the navy, depose the king and queen and install their own rule.  This all actually happened.  What separates it from an outright invasion and in some ways makes it even more outrageous is how they justify it all with legal legitimacy, laws they already decided on.  Truly fucked.

Anyhow, it was an entertaining story, oddly easy-going despite the stakes and I learned some history

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