Book Reviews for Thai Girl Book
Read what people have to say about Thai Girl by Andrew Hicks.
More Comments about "Thai Girl"
You have written a very good text, excellent, good work!
I enjoyed Thai Girl very much - especially the parts about Thai culture and the general problems of the rural poor. What an achievement!!
Many congratulations. You must be really proud.
With very best wishes,
Thanks for getting back to me.
Yeah, I really liked Thai Girl, you really captured how Thais act and think, which isn't easy at the best of times. And your dialogue and descriptions of island life are bang on. I liked the cover, too. A friend recommended it to me and he really enjoyed it, too.
If you get the chance, try to get a copy of a DVD of the film Butterfly Man....a friend of mine produced it last year...about a backpacker who falls in love with a beach massage girl. I think your story works better!
PS Great website, by the way!
I am German and have not read a novel in English before. Thai Girl was the first but I found it quite easy to read and enjoyed it. I live in Isaan with my girlfriend so I found the book very interesting and very true. I felt I knew Fon well. Thai Girl did for me what a novel must do. It took me away from my own life and I lived another life. I sat down for two days and read it from beginning to end and was very lost in it. Yes, it is very good book.
This was the first book in a while that I've picked up and not wanted to put down until I'd finished. I was never quite sure how it was going to end. The book opened my eyes to the kind of things that go on in Thailand that I had never considered before and it taught me a lot. As for the characters, I thought Emma was brave going off alone, Fon was lovely and such a strong person, and Ben was your stereotypical uni student type who got off lightly with Emma!!
I have just finished reading 'Thai Girl' and must say that it was an enjoyable and thought provoking read. I sympathised most strongly with Fon, whom I saw more as a victim rather than a schemer. If you take the story at face value, and she really did eventually fall for Ben, then it is rather a sad story. Even if Joy is her daughter and Fon does have a boyfriend in the background, she has compromised her position on Samet and opened herself up to someone who is rather ignorant, selfish, shallow and thoughtless. Ben will presumably quietly forget about her as he follows his legal career and meets other girls. She will be left where she is, but with a tarnished reputation and a bitter experience that will cloud any future dealings with male farang.
Ben is rather ignorant for someone who has supposedly graduated from university, and weak when it comes to women. He is unable to see things as they are, and as such, should never have been in Thailand with Emma in the first place. This was emphasised when he met the Australian girl on Koh Chang and in his dealings with Fon. I suspect, being male, that what he really needed was 'to clear his tubes' and give his brain a chance. In some respects, he is more reprehensible than the Farang who pay for sex. For the latter, the moralities of commercial sex aside, dealings with the girls are on a strictly commercial basis. Ben's impact on Fon is potentially rather more serious as he has jeopardised her status in her society, as well as damaging her personally.
For me, Emma could have been any one of any number of European women seen on the backpacker trail in Asia. Selfish and domineering she was quite happy to condemn the morals of others whilst happily indulging in the furthering of her own sexual freedom, in contrast to the Thais that Ben was with. For me, she was the personification of a 'man with tits'; a description memorably used by one of the peripheral characters in the book.
I enjoyed the settings - you've obviously been to the places mentioned in the book and the description of the Thai countryside and village life.
The Farang come in for a bit of a bashing, and I suppose that there must be all sorts escaping from their pasts or reality in Thailand, but there were not many characters I could sympathise with, not being into drugs and booze myself. The Dutch character was one that I most liked, most of the others, being the usual druggie trash found on Pang Ngan and Pattaya. These could have been balanced by some other more normal travellers, who can be found in Thailand. Middle aged Farang also get a bad write up, but not every one you seein Thailand is a paedophile or sex tourist groping the locals. There are many who have normal, happy and lasting relationships with Thai people either in Thailand, or in Europe, but this aspect did not emerge in the book. Why these men chose to have Thai wives over wives from other nationalities is another matter that is worth a book in itself !
One fact about commercial sex in Thailand that did not emerge, is that the tourist typically only sees what is on the surface. 95% of the sex industry in Thailand caters to Thai and other asian males via coffee houses and karaoke bars etc. The practice is endemic, and from what I have read, has been for centuries. This does not condone it, but it does put the 'shock, horror' response of the ignorant tourist into some perspective.
Commercial sex is available anywhere in the world if you look for it. The difference is that Thai society is more tolerant of it, and probably less repressed than our own, and that the media report it more readily when it is linked with Thailand, than if it is linked with Torquay.
I would like to know if you planning a sequel, as I would love to know what happened with Ben and Fon. Everyone loves a happy ending !
To Terry Scott,
Thanks so much for your long and thoughtful comment about Thai Girl which I found interesting and thought-provoking.
It all comes down to the words on the book's cover. Was Fon seductive, scheming and available, or was she modest, sweet and innocent... was it she who was the victim? Your conclusions on this are clear, that Ben thoughlessly did significant damage to her. I'm sure many readers would agree with you. But are you nonetheless a bit hard on Ben? In effect you say he was a shit who was only in Thailand to screw around. Perhaps he was just a typical immature lad out to have a good time. But one could say in his defence that he had stayed loyal to Emma, his first girlfriend for three years throughout university and that he was shocked at the split up. And rather than become a sex tourist he then single-mindedly pursued Fon even though he wasn't getting his way with her. If along the way a tasty Australian threw herself at him, then what a lucky guy he was!
Are you a bit tough on Emma too? You think her selfish and domineering, a 'man with tits' out for sexual adventures. Or was she perhaps weak and confused about her failing relationship with Ben and desparately uncertain about her future life? We don't really know what sexual contacts she had while she was on her own because she didn't tell Ben on the plane. All we know is that in terms of travelling alone and her self-confidence she did pretty well without him. I don't dislike her for that. But I'm intrigued by your comments and what's interesting for me is how differently readers interpret the character and behaviour of these two individuals. Often the males back Ben and the women back Emma!
You're a bit tough on some of the peripheral characters too. Are they really the lowest common denominator of druggie trash that I agree are all too common in Thailand? How about Darren? Yes, well... maybe! Immature, out for a good time, he is a reflection of current bored English lads perhaps. But Maca and Chuck surely have redeeming features, despite a liking for a spliff every so often. Maca is thoughtful and well-informed about Thailand and Africa. He is a serious traveller, while Chuck is gentle and sensitive and has a perceptive view of his own country as he takes time off and reorientates his life. None of them seem to have allowed themselves to become sex-tourists, Stewart admitting the need for self-restraint. I've seen many worse parasites in Thailand. And characters like Clarissa and Dutch act as foils for their younger friends and are solid enough.
Yes, some of the characters do take a dim view of older travellers, scenting a sex tourist if a man is over forty. Jack Russell is the only well-developed character in this category but is he unsympathetic too? Some readers say they like him for his directness and honesty about why he is in Thailand.
But you're right, the book does not look at the many normal and successful relationships that do exist across the cultures. The one reference is Ben's view that the sheer scale of sex-tourism makes all such relationships more difficult to carry on publicly. Every young Thai woman with a farang must be perceived to be a bar girl.
As you say commercial sex catering to tourists in Thailand is the tip of the iceberg... this becomes apparent to Ben when he discovers sex for sale both at the karaoke bar and the sing-a-song club in the small town in Buriram. Certainly Emma has a 'shock, horror' response to sex for sale in Bangkok which may be hypocritical or a consequence of European repression. When Ben and Emma meet on the plane to fly home, their conclusion is that what is most offensive is the apparent connivance of governments at the flaunting of sex tourism to earn tourist dollars, a practice that has done immeasurable harm to the reputation of Thai womanhood throughout the world.
So again it all comes down to the nature of the eponymous 'Thai girl'. Is she virgin or whore? Is she typically seductive, scheming and available or is it she who is the victim? As regards Fon, I find your conclusions interesting and am gratified that you have so consciously grasped the key issues that the book is all about. A lot of people read the book as an enjoyable story, which is fine by me, but you have looked deeper. I am also gratified that you like the idea of a sequel, though would a happy ending be realistic? Perhaps that would detract from these primary issues that you talk about that run throughout the book.
The core of the plot, the friendship and romance that grows between Ben and Fon is both a touching story and an excellent delivery mechanism for a range of viewpoints about the Thai sex trade and the 'westernisation' of Thai culture. This is excellently supported by the author putting his various characters to good use; each from subtly different cultures and backgrounds, to explore a range of topics related to the main theme of the book.
A good example is the discussion of American foreign policy in Chapter 29, which takes into account several new perspectives on the subject that may not otherwise be apparent to the reader. Likewise Ben's bar crawl with Jack Russell in Chapter 19 yields a fascinating alternative perspective on the Thai sex trade when end a put in a soapy massage pattaya, with a thought provoking analogy between running a residential care home and the services offered by prostitutes. 'Prostitutes are members of a caring profession,' says Jack.
I really liked your novel, great story! I read it while I was travelling in Thailand myself. Awaiting my plane departure, and being bored of course, I strolled between the bookshops and noticed your book. Of course the cover immediately aroused my interest. Going to the north east at that time I thought "right time, right place" to read it.
The characters are well chosen. Each one of them is easy to understand, being who they are and what they are standing for, Fon being a more difficult to get into. But then again, maybe Thai people are more difficult to understand, having another culture, beliefs and... language. I did personally not have many personal contacts with Thai people but I felt most of them are very charming (even if they going through difficult or bad times). They keep their spirit up. Land of the smile they say. Guess we could learn a lot from them. Most Western people have forgotten to enjoy small things in life and how to put things in perspective.
Anyway I am still thinking about the story and I was a bit sad by the way it ended. Not for Ben... but for Fon. She always has kept her distance, trying not to become too emotionally involved with this farang, and right she was because she knew he would probably leave anyway and the chances of him coming back quite small once he would pick up his life and career in the West again. Better the short pain than ending up with a broken heart afterwards. She was very honest, innocent and above all very responsible. Ben had all that as well, except having no responsibilities at all... and a lack of maturity. She kept her distance to protect herself (and her family because I believe Joy was her daughter). But that doesn't mean she has no dreams about finding the man of her life and becoming happy with him. I guess if Ben would have returned in the book (let's say after a few months) she would maybe go for it. Then she would be more sure about his real feelings (and not thinking it was only some kind of holiday romance).
I have a deep sympathy for Fon. For me Fon is not only a character in the book, she is real person. I am pretty sure she must exist. Moreover, there are probably lots of Fons in Thailand... all dreaming of a better future and fighting for it.... but staying who they are... adorable persons.
I really appreciate you writing. As an author it's so rewarding hearing from readers and if you don't write in, it's like I've dropped the book down a deep well and there's no splash.
And I liked what you had to say; even began to feel quite emotional about Fon as I read. It's interesting how different people focus on different aspects of the book.
A lot of people are most interested in the Ben/Emma conflict, but you were most taken with Fon and were moved by her troubles. If the book is about the interaction between young farang and Thais, then I think you've hit the nail on the head. Your response is thoughtful and perceptive and is exactly what I had hoped for.
Thanks again and do pass on word about the book. Is it cold out there? Good to think about Thailand!
Thank you for this entertaining, interesting book!
As a reader, I especially appreciated the gentle and balanced way various social, economic, political, sexual and gender related topics were woven into the story through conversations Ben had with farang travelers and Thais he met. I don't know whether you meant to take the 'middle path' here by presenting different ideas without imposing an opinion on the reader, but it certainly came as a pleasant surprise and huge relief to me. My current experience with a lot of things I read these days - fiction and non-fiction, is the feeling of being manipulated or pressured into identifying and agreeing with the author's 'message'.
There were some useful thoughts about cultural differences that are commonly experienced here - the thai/falang miscommunication about the meaning of money, the falang frustration with thai communal life and commitment to family (rather that pursuing individual dreams and aspirations), the western belief in romance and excitement versus the eastern belief in practical partnerships.
I want to briefly mention the relationship between Fon and Joy. I have no doubt there are differences in the way illegitimate children are seen in different classes of Thai society, but in my experience over the last year and a half, unmarried Thai women with children are quite straightforward about this, so I didn't feel Fon was being evasive or dishonest about this. Within the cultural context, Fon taking care of Joy seemed perfectly logical.
Thanks again for a lively read!