August 18, 2004
Jasmine Nights by S.P. Somtow

Jasmine Nights by S.P. Somtow: a coming of age tale set in Thailand in 1963.

Little Frog, who’s real name is Sornsunthorn but prefers Justin, is twelve years old in 1963 when our story opens. Refusing to speak his native Thai and left by his parents with his relatives, particularly his three aunts that he refers to as the three Fates, Justin finds himself living between two worlds - the one where he is but a child living in a vast protected estate and the one that he has created out of the poetry and Greek classics that he loves so much.

Soon an incident involving a stiletto high heel and his beloved pet chameleon Homer at a funeral leads Little Frog to a meeting with an American child living next door and brings about changes that he cannot even start to imagine.

I throughly enjoyed reading about Little Frog’s life. The novel had almost a poetic sense to its writing and almost every scene had a sort of poignancy to it, especially by the end. I’m not really sure that I liked how the novel ended up, but it certainly fit with the rest of it.

My only complaint was that the book was peppered with Thai phrases and vocabulary. There was is a glossary at the beginning of the novel, but I found it very annoying to have to stop reading, flip to the front, look up the word, and then get back into the story. While I enjoyed learning some foreign vocabulary, it really did break up the book.

All in all, though, the novel was extremely well written, very interesting, and well worth a reading.