An inspiring memoir of a Nepalese political prisoner who survived months of incarceration, witnessed the demise of her...

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SHADOW OVER SHANGRI-LA: A Woman's Quest for Freedom

An inspiring memoir of a Nepalese political prisoner who survived months of incarceration, witnessed the demise of her country's oppressive government in 1990, and went on to enjoy a fairy-tale romance and marriage. Politicized in early adulthood, upper-caste Pokhrel broke from her Brahmin family to fight for democracy against the ruling Panchayat regime, becoming active in the Nepali Congress and operating an opposition press. In 1981 she was arrested and imprisoned on groundless charges. While mixing chronological storytelling and flashback, she concentrates on the daily life of a Nepali women's prison, revealing it as ""institutionalized torture,"" where the goal of the state was to ""maintain a regime of unconsciousness, compliance, mindlessness, and inhumanity."" Rather than focusing only on her survivial, Pokhrel petitioned for other prisoners. Her commitment to her country continued even after she was released, fled Nepal, attended Harvard, and married British rural development specialist (and coauthor) Willett. Her final chapter is a moving statement of her unflinching hope: She envisions the process of creating ""a conscious Nepali society established in right action."" Pokhrel propels the story with ample dialogue and detailed description, particularly of prison conditions. Readers will not forget what she describes: starving, unwashed prisoners, beaten, repeatedly violated, suspended upside down, or shackled to wheels. Yet Pokhrel keeps these descriptions bearable by reminding herself (and us) that this is a situation that must end. If the book is not a fast read, it is because of elements that give the narrative intimacy and character: Pokhrel's formal phrasing and her digressions about the nature of freedom. Lacking the visceral excitement of a Papillon, but memorable for Pokhrel's idealism, humanity, and unflagging determination to live.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1996

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Brassey's

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1996