Alice Pung’s second book, Her Father’s Daughter, published by Black Inc in Australia this month, seems set to emulate the success of her first book, Unpolished Gem, which won the Australian Book Industry Newcomer of the Year award.
Pung is of Cambodian descent, and her father is a survivor of the Khmer Rouge. Her new book, which officially launches in Melbourne next Thursday and in Sydney on October 4, details her father’s life in Melbourne, where he moved after living in Thailand as a refugee.
This is how the publisher sells the book in a press release: “At twenty-something, Alice is eager for the milestones of adulthood: leaving home, choosing a career, finding friendship and love on her own terms. But with each step she takes she feels the sharp tug of invisible threads: the love and worry of her parents, who want more than anything to keep her from harm. Her father fears for her safety to an extraordinary degree – but why?
“As she digs further into her father’s story, Alice embarks on a journey of painful discovery: of memories lost and found, of her own fears for the future, of history and how it echoes down the years. Set in Melbourne, China and Cambodia, Her Father’s Daughter captures a father–daughter relationship in a moving and astonishingly powerful way.”
The book also received a good review last Saturday in the influential Sydney Morning Herald.
Here is part of what the Herald had to say: “ ‘The real miracle was that he could love.’ So writes Alice Pung at the end of her new memoir when she visits the Cambodian killing fields. ‘Dad buried bodies here,’ she realises. ‘There were bones beneath their feet, souls between their breaths’.
“Unsurprisingly, her father’s relationship with Cambodia is over. He’s rather dispassionate about his return; the fields provoke no real feeling. To live a happy life, he says, ‘‘you need a healthy short-term memory, a slate that can be wiped clean every morning,’ and Australia is now his home. It is this tension – between father and daughter, truth and expectation, reality and imagination – that drives this startling book.
“…In the end, Pung does come away with a clearer sense of herself and her family’s past. But in all this questing, the story takes on a new focus: love. Her Father’s Daughter is a celebration of her father’s love for his wife, for his children, for life after Cambodia. Most of all, it’s a moving demonstration of the respect and admiration Pung has for her parents, who have fought so tirelessly for her life to be one of safety and opportunity.”
Alice Pung will also be a “participating writer” at the Singapore Writers Festival, from October 22-30. She will appear at three different sessions during the festival’s start day, October 22, kicking off with a ‘meet the author’ session from 10am to 11am.