Cover image for The girl from the coast
The girl from the coast
Toer, Pramoedya Ananta, 1925-2006.
Uniform Title:
Gadis pantai. English
Publication Information:
New York : Hyperion, 2002.
Physical Description:
280 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
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From the world-renowned author of The Mutes Soliloquy and The Buru Quartet comes a heartbreaking novel about innocence and power.

In feudal Java, where both privilege and poverty lived side-by-side, women were little more than chattel. Pramoedyas The Girl From the Coast tells the story of a beautiful young woman from a fishing village who finds herself in an arranged marriage with a wealthy aristocrat. Forced to leave her parents and home behind, she moves to the city to become the "lady" of her husbands house. After she becomes pregnant, she learns that she is merely a "practice wife" who will not simply be discarded but will be separated from the child she carries. Pramoedyas breathtaking literary skill is evident in every word of this book, one of his classic works of fiction made especially poignant because it is based on the life of his own grandmother.

Author Notes

One of Indonesia's most prominent authors, Toer spent most of his adult life in prison; his works have frequently been banned by the government. Toer's first novel, The Fugitive (1950), was written during his internment by the Dutch. Toer became a leading figure in the Marxist literary group Lekra and was again incarcerated after the 1965 overthrow of Sukarno, joining thousands of other left-wing artists on the prison island of Buru. The author of over 30 works of fiction and nonfiction, Toer is best known for his Buru tetralogy, which traces the birth of nationalism in Indonesia. Most of the work was composed as narration to fellow prisoners, then later recorded and published after Toer's release in 1979. Although the events of the tetralogy take place in the past, they must be understood in the context of his experiences at Buru. In 1988 Toer received the PEN Freedom-to-Write Award. (Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Imprisoned for more than 17 years for his opposition to tyranny, Toer dramatizes with grace and valor the injustices and glory of human life in his many internationally acclaimed books, which are banned in Indonesia, his homeland. In this pearlescent tale of feudal Java, a beautiful young woman from a poor fishing village has the misfortune of catching the eye of a Muslim aristocrat who asks to marry her, but who, after a brief ceremony in which a dagger takes the place of the groom, merely installs her in his bleak residence as a lowly concubine. Toer illuminates the poetic mind of his young heroine as she despairs of her prisonlike existence, pines for the sensual freedom of her former life, and puzzles over such conundrums as how a man as fraudulent as her "husband" instills fear in others, while honest and courageous men like her father are powerless; what makes her "better" than her servant; and how a woman can be considered nothing more than a man's property. As Toer unfurls this entrancing, indelible tale based on his grandmother's hard life, he deftly dissects the conventions that enable a brutal few to oppress the suffering many. --Donna Seaman

Library Journal Review

Like Filipino writer F. Sionil Jose, Indonesian dissident Toer is considered a major contender for a Nobel prize, and his latest novel demonstrates why he has earned multiple literary awards during his remarkable writing career. Based largely on his grandmother's life, this novel relates the story of the arranged marriage of a lovely, unnamed young woman who leaves her fishing village to wed a nobleman, the Bendoro. Though the Girl from the Coast, as she is known, serves her husband well, eventually she learns that she is merely a "practice wife." The Bendoro not only divorces her but also takes away her child and banishes her. In Toer's characteristically simple, fast-paced narrative style, he deftly explores the complex issues arising when the impoverished interact with the privileged and when women become property. The novel's strong sociopolitical commentary explains why the Indonesian government has banned many of Toer's books and incarcerated him for nearly 15 years. Recommended for most collections. Faye A. Chadwell, Univ. of Oregon Libs., Eugene (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.