My new book, A Brief History of Indonesia: Sultans, Spices, and Tsunamis: The Incredible Story of Southeast Asia’s Largest Nation, was published this summer, launching first in Southeast Asia in July, then in August in the US, and finally in the UK in September. It’s available from all the usual places, though of course, you really should try to buy it from a bricks-and-mortar bookshop if you can…
I had a grand old time launching the book in Indonesia in July and August, starting with some fun events in Bali. First up was a talk, accompanied by the fabled high tea, at the glorious Biku Restaurant in Seminyak, followed by a lively evening session at Casa Luna in Ubud. Other events in Bali, Yogyakarta, and Jakarta followed, all organised by the lovely folks from the Periplus bookshop chain. Last up – literally on the way to the airport – came a final talk at Komunitas Salihara, hosted by the formidable Ayu Utami, who I was very excited to meet (she’s a proper Indonesian literary superstar, and very cool with it).
It’s been really exciting to see how much attention the book has been getting from Indonesian readers and Indonesian media. As an English-language book it was obviously written with non-Indonesians in mind first and foremost, but it’s been very gratifying to get such warm responses from the people whose country it’s actually about.
I got featured in the Indonesian-language version of National Geographic – which not only called it “a book which is light to read”, but also delighted me by calling me by my favoured Javanese form of address, “Mas Tim”!
I had a lovely – and very detailed – profile in Harian Nasional by Devy Lubis, and there was more coverage in Bisnis Indonesia, Waktoe, Intisari, Tribun Yogya, Bali Pos and Kedaulatan Rakyat in Yogyakarta which made much of my notion that Indonesians really should stop saying “it would be better to have been colonised by the British, not the Dutch…”
My favourite Indonesian coverage, however, was a fulsome review in Media Indonesia (one of my favourite Indonesian papers) by Hera Khaerani, with the delightful pull-out quote:
What is unique about each of Hannigan’s books is his way of interpreting historical facts and presenting them in a cinematographic way, despite being armed only with the written word. He is able to create a theater in the heads of his readers… (Keunikan setiap novel Hannigan ada pada caranya menginterpretasi fakta sejarah dan menyajikannya secara sinematografis meski hanya berbekal kata-kata yang tertulis. Dia mampu memainkan teater dalam kepala pembaca…)
Tempo Magazine kicked off the English-language coverage with a fine review from Bill Dalton, doyen of Indonesia travel writing, calling the book “a highly readable, informative, solid and irreverent introduction to this sprawling island nation.” The same review was later reprinted in The Bali Advertiser.
Writing in The Jakarta Post, Hans David Tampubolon said that the book “manages to capture this heavy and rich history in a very easy to understand and entertaining narrative”. There was more Jakarta Post coverage in an interview about my favourite books. Meanwhile, Bali & Beyond magazine kindly called it “definitely a must-read” and said that it was “almost as if you are reading a story book rather than complicated research by a historian.” I’m not a historian, as it happens; I’m a history writer, which isn’t quite the same thing, but I won’t quibble with a positive review!
There was also a very detailed review in the Asian Review of Books, also published in the Jakarta Globe, in which Stephen Joyce wrote:
A Brief History of Indonesia is an intelligent and lucidly-written piece of work that has more than enough content and drama to attract the general Asian history reader; and is the perfect companion for travellers and tourists who wish to delve deeper than their travel guide’s history section and get closer to the beating heart of this troubled yet remarkable nation.
In Indonesia Expat veteran Jakarta-based writer Terry Collins reviewed the book, suggesting that it “be translated into Indonesian as an all-purpose supplement to the shallow versions of national history ‘approved’ by successive governments”!
Foreword Reviews gave the book five stars, and said that it “presents Indonesia as a place of high drama”, and Lonely Planet made it one of their top books to “read before you go”, and called it “a highly readable and entertaining narrative that highlights the many personalities who have shaped the nation – and our perception of it…”
And there has even been some coverage on home ground! My own local newspaper, The Cornishman, ran a nice piece, very excited that a “local author” had scored a “bestseller”, even if it was on the other side of the world! And Lucy Munday wrote a feature which ran in The Western Morning News.
And now, it’s time to get on with the next book…