Take me to Paradise by Jan Cornall
Review by Pak Bill, 2008
Bali AdvertiserSet in the artisan hill town of Ubud, between Bali Bomb I and Bali Bomb II, Jan Cornall’s funny and insightful performance prose novel, explores notions of paradise and a modern woman’s quest for meaning and passion in a post 9/11 world.
The story of how the book was written is as intriguing as the plot of the book, an epiphany of witty monologues, sharp observations on island life and its vibrant characters, as well as insightful remarks on contemporary sexual and social mores.
Writer/singer/poet Jan Cornall was a late arrival in paradise. She had always meant to visit Bali but didn’t actually arrive on the island until June 2002, when her ex-partner treated her to a ticket to Bali to accompany their daughter on the first leg of a trip around the world. Like so many before her Jan fell in love with the island from the moment she stepped into the warm scented air at Denpasar airport.
On a friend’s recommendation Jan and her daughter headed straight for Ubud and found a room at a family-run guesthouse. Ketut, heir host, drove Jan and Cyd to all the usual attractions – Kintamani, Tanah Lot, The Elephant Cave, Gunung Kawi, silver and weaving work shops.
As Ketut gave all the usual explanations about religious ceremonies, the caste system, Balinese names, the banjar, and the Balinese arts, Jan began to immerse herself in the spiritually creative atmosphere of Ubud and its surrounds. She realized even then that she would have to find a way to return.
But four months later the island was devastated by the terrorist attack on the Sari Club in Kuta Beach. Jan watched the drama unfold from her living room in Sydney and put her plans on hold.
She finally returned in 2004, running her first writer retreat in conjunction with the Ubud Writers Festival. To make up for lost time, every three months or so she crossed the Timor sea to run more retreats on Bali attended by aussies, expats, Indonesians and international visitors.
Finally, in January 2005, with plenty of material in hand and at the urging of poet Sitok Srengenge (they met at the 2004 Ubud Writers Festival), Jan began writing her novel.
In October 2005, disaster struck the island again, but this time Jan did not postpone her travel but headed to Ubud, four days after the Jimbaran and Kuta bombings. She arrived with a half full plane of Australians, all determined not to let a terrorist attack ruin their holiday plans. Jan kept on taking notes.
Launched in September 2006, the book was the buzz of the 2006 Ubud Writer’s Festival, and Kata Kita Publishing of Jakarta plans to translate and publish an Indonesian edition of Take Me To Paradise this year.
In the novel, the author’s heroine Marilyn wakes up one morning and instead of catching the bus to work, she catches a “I don’t like Mondays’ flight to post-bomb, post-Schapelle Bali.
It must be left up to the reader to find out if Marilyn is too late to indulge her paradise dream or if she will become a cliché like so many western women before her who arrived and who had fallen headlong for the lush green island, its exotic culture and perhaps an attractive driver or two.
The author leaves it also up to the reader to decide whether Marilyn does, or Marilyn doesn’t, and then she hits us with a clever denouement. You’ll find that in the end, Marilyn finds her paradise, but isn’t prepared for the demands that Bali will ask of her.
Jan Cornall’s thoughtful novel shows us how different the paradise dream can be - for a western woman, for a Balinese man, for a Balinese wife, for a young terrorist, for a jaded expat. She reminds us, just as the Balinese do, that while the searingly painful events of our lives - death, divorce and major life change - leave their mark, we have no choice but to let them go and move on.
Marilyn echoes Jan Cornall’s thoughts about Bali in the final chapter saying, “….Bali is a paradise, I conclude, not because it has palm trees and sandy beaches and hotel resorts stretching for miles and miles, but because even in death, every day on that island, is a celebration of life.”
Take Me to Paradise by Jan Cornall, design and publishing by Saritaksu Editions 2006, ISBN: 9791173- 00-1, soft cover with flaps, 116 pages, 290 mm x 145 mm.
Available for Rp90,000 at Periplus Bookshops in the Bali Galleria, the Matahari in Kuta, Made’s Warung in Seminyak, Ngurah Rai Airport, Gramedia Bookstores, the Ary’s, Ganesha and Periplus bookshops of Ubud.
Copyright © 2008 PakBill