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Running Dogs, by Ruby Murray.

April 21, 2013

Running Dogs, by Ruby Murray. Australia: Scribe Publications, 2012.

A well-written novel by an Australian author about individuals unthinkingly caught up in the chaos and corruption of Jakarta, past and present.

Petra Jordan and her two brothers are the children of a wealthy power-broker in Jakarta.  We see them through the eyes of Diane, an Australian development worker who takes a job in the city, while barely acknowledging her desire to reconnect with her college friend, Petra.  When they get together, Diane gradually sees the strangeness of the three siblings, but she gets caught up in their affluent life style.  As chapters alternate between present and past, we are shown the traumatic events of the past which continue to bind the sister and her brothers together and continue to threaten them in the present.

Ruby Murray is an excellent writer who paints vivid word pictures of Jakarta and its varied inhabitants.  Her characters are sharp and believable, if sometimes naive.  She draws a compelling picture of how individuals get drawn into unthinkable activities.   My problem was that I could never quite like and care about any of her characters.  I could empathize with the pain of the Jordan children as they grew up in a household which dismissed and used them, but not as adults when they turn a blind eye to misconduct and corruption.  Of course, we live in a world where those with wealth and power behave this way too often, but I have little sympathy for them. I cannot accept that painful childhoods offer an excuse for such lack of awareness about the pain they are causing.

Yet because of Murray’s skillful use of language I enjoyed this book and learned much about Jakarta in the 1990s and today.  I am grateful to have received a copy of it in the Scribe Giveaway on Australian Women Writers.

I recommend this book, especially to readers interested in Jakarta and the lives of the rich and powerful or in how and why people make or avoid moral choices.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Jennifer Rolfe permalink
    April 23, 2013 5:20 pm

    Thank you so much for introducing me to this book. It has just jumped to the top of my ‘to read’ list. I live in Australia and Indonesia is our nearest neighbour. I developed a fascination for this country thirty years ago and like you, still find it a challenge to understand their culture. I have just finished reading a book by an Indonesian woman Dewi Anggraeni ‘The Root of All Evil’. She has lived in Australia for quite a while so examines Indonesia from a different perspective. One reviewer of this book stated that Jakarta is one of earth’s most wounding cities – a modern Hades. Another claiming that Australia and Indonesia are very different socienties and these differences can be political with consequences that are deeply human. I found the book very challenging and like you difficult to connect to any of the characters. Dewi has written other novels and I am busily tracking them down.


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