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Book : “The Girl from the Coast” (translated from “Gadis Pantai”)
Author : Pramoedya Ananta Toer
Translator : Willem Samuels
Publisher : Hyperion East
Pages : 274 + 8 pages of Epilogue
Reviewer : Muhammad Miqdam Makfi

Main characters and their characteristic:
The Girl from the Coast : beautiful, smart and critical, eager to know something, egalitarian.
Bendoro : religious, wise, strict and assertive.
First Servant : simple, honest, tough and patient.
Mardinah (second servant) : pragmatic, impolite, stubborn, greedy.
Girl’s Father : harsh and strict, hard worker, deft and adroit, care, modestly.

Plot summary:
The Girl from the Coast was sent to the city. Her parents decided to give her away to Bendoro (a noble for a palace people), an aristocratic religious man in the city to be his practical wife Just like another practical wives, the Girl form the Coast was divorced right after she delivered her very first baby.

Before the marriage, she was only a daughter of a poor fisherman father and a housewife mother lived in a fishing village, somewhere near Rembang, Central Java, Indonesia. Her parents arranged the marriage for their daughter so –hopefully– she could live better than her parents. It was probably right. The Bendoro, her husband, educated her, provided all of her needs, even gave her a private servant whom she could command for anything.

Unfortunately, this rich life didn’t give her the happiness as she got in village. Her new life was cold. She felt like being a prisoner in a huge luxurious house. She could command whatever she wanted to whoever she found in the house but Bendoro, her own husband.

She therefore tried to find little happiness so she could stand staying there. Luckily, her private servant was a nice person. She helped the Girl to transform from a villager into a city woman. Also, the servant always told her the story tale before sleeping. Somehow, the Girl felt comfortable because she had a friend she could share with.

After a year being Bendoro’s wife, the Girl from the Coast started to love him. Moreover, she felt jealous when her husband went out for days. The Bendoro knew this, so he tried to be kind and lovely husband to her. But this didn’t last long. The problem occurred when Bendoro’s nephew stole the Girl’s money. Her servant then accused the nephew in front of Bendoro. As a wise-religious person, Bendoro accepted this accusation. He expelled the nephew. But also, he chased away the servant for being an impolite servant to her master with accusing his nephew.

The Girl from the Coast felt lonely. This was getting worse when Mardinah, the new servant came to replace the previous servant. In fact, Mardinah was sent by another Bendoro in Demak (another city in Central Java) to separate the Bendoro and the Girl from the Coast so Bendoro could marry the real noble woman from this another Bendoro family.

Someday, the Girl wanted to visit her family back in the village. So with Bendoro’s permission, she went to the village accompanied by Mardinah and a driver. Suddenly, the Girl didn’t want to return to Bendoro’s house. So Mardinah and the driver went back without her. After a while, Mardinah came again to the Girl’s village and told her that Bendoro asked her to go back to city. They argued until finally villagers realized that Mardinah had a tricky intention toward the Girl since the beginning she replaced the first servant. The Girl’s father punished Mardinah so she couldn’t go back to city. Meanwhile, the Girl form the Coast went back to Bendoro. After the Girl delivered the baby, Bendoro divorced her.

After this divorce, the Girl went to Blora, the hometown of her first servant.

Opinion and recommendation:
This is a novel made as a first volume of trilogy of Pram’s autobiography. Unfortunately, the second and third volumes were destroyed by Indonesian military. So, the story ends without the ending.

The Girl from the Coast is Pram’s grandmother. When she died, the young Pram promised to try to tell her story to people.

Despite the story about his grandmother, Pram, through this novel, tells the reader about the distinction found between the villager and city people, between Islamic and traditional belief people, also between proletarian and bourgeois people. Moreover, this is a story about Indonesia before it had its independence day. Using this novel, Pram tried to criticize the government which was pro-Dutch. Furthermore, Pram also implicitly tells the reader about feudalism in past time of Indonesia civilization.

To penetrate about two different classes of people and about Indonesian fighting, Pram gave the details of some places, people, and events. Sometimes, to ensure the reader about how harsh life was, these details were made very dramatically.

Because it was from Pram family’s own story, so Pram could write the novel heartfelt. In the Indonesian version, it can be seen that Pram used the proper dictions and sentences.

William Samuels translated lot of Pram’s books. So it can be sure that he really knows about Pram and his life, also about Indonesian life in past history. It can be said that William’s translation gives the reader a representative book of the original one. Only sometimes, William didn’t explain the traditional Javanese terms such pak (Indonesian word for ‘sir’), batik (Javanese cloth), etc.

Overall, those who want to read a reality based novel, critical, vulgar, historical, and memorial novel should read this Pram’s novel. Beside, The Girl from the Coast also motivates the readers to re-think and contemplate about equality and human rights.[Mc-V]

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