In early 1970, a small plane, en route to Angkor Wat, mysteriously disappears over the Cambodian jungle. Piloted by an American hippie, the passengers are Bill Bolton, a US businessman, his wife Marjorie, their guide a young Englishwoman, and a Cambodian 'old hand', a Frenchman. Stranded helplessly in the jungle, the westerners are found by local peasants, and taken to the relative safety of their own veritable Shangri La. Here, cut off from the outside world, they find an enchanting Buddhist world, full of laughter and festivals; a gentle, sensitive people without greed, violence, or too much work. As the party adjust to the lotus-eating culture, life presents excitement, pleasure - even love. And an opportunity to bring modern methods to a backward way of life. But a darker, brutal presence threatens to destroy their paradise. The Vietnam war is spilling across Cambodia's borders, and an insurgency is on the rise that will become the Khmer Rouge. Cambodia must change, but in whose image? Gripping and beautifully written, "A Model American" is a multi-dimensional parable showing the American character abroad and its effects when used to 'improve' an ancient, alien culture.
For many, it will greatly resonate with what is happening in the world today.
Elsie Burch Donald worked as an editor in London before becoming a novelist. Her first novel NASHBOROUGH was published by HarperCollins in 2001, and her most recent novel A ROPE OF SAND is available in Black Swan paperback. She divides her time between London and southwest France.