02 March 2010

The Devil’s Tears

by Steven Horne

Pan Macmillan Australia. Australian, Adult Fiction, History. Paperback rrp $32.99

This is a book I particularly didn’t want to read as the modern history of the Timor people is horrific. I thought the book would be a good read for my husband but he was busy with something else. So I opened The Devil’s Tears and started to read. I found I couldn’t stop.

While Cesar da Silva’s story is fiction, it could so easily be true. In fact I am sure there are many real life versions to be found. It’s eerie and unsettling. Reality is sometimes only a few steps away from historical fiction.

When the civil war comes to Timor, Cesar, his wife Helena, and their three young daughters, try to escape the country of their birth. But luck is not with them and Cesar is separated from his wife and two of his daughters. With no other option and the belief that his family are dead, Cesar and his daughter, Ana, finally arrive on Australian shores.

For close to twenty-five years Cesar and Ana create a life in Australia, whilst Helena endures a life that no-one could ever want. Although Helena is not dead she wishes she was. She and her two daughters live a life of poverty and degradation, surrounded by tragedy. Helena believes Cesar and her other daughter are dead and with a sadistic warlord stalking her and her daughters, she tries to hide and scrape together a miserable life.

When Abby and David, an Australian journalist and photographer, visit the killing fields of Timor, they become entwined in the da Silva family story.

The Devil’s Tears is an important book. Although fiction, eyes will be opened to the plight of the people of Timor. A moving book of love, loss, anguish, mystery and crime. The only time you will put it down is when you have turned the last page. Brilliant.


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