Savour the familiar scent of clove and tobacco … for this is the aroma of Indonesia’s history.
Soeraja is dying. On his deathbed he calls for Jeng Yah, a woman who is not his wife. His three sons, Lebas, Karim and Tegar – heirs to Kretek Djagad Raja, Indonesia’s largest clove cigarette empire – are shocked, and their mother is consumed by jealousy. So begins the brothers’ search into the deepest recesses of Java for Jeng Yah, to fulfil their father’s dying wish and to learn the truth about the family business and its secrets.
Cigarette Girl is more than just a love story and the soul-searching journey of three brothers. Set on the island of Java the story follows the evolution of a family’s kretek, or clove cigarette, business from its birth in the Dutch East Indies of the early 1940s, and it takes readers through three generations of Indonesian history, from the Dutch colonial era to the Japanese occupation, the struggle for independence and the bloody coup of 1965 in which half a million Indonesians were hunted down and killed.
Rich in detail, with characters who struggle to right the wrongs of past generations, their relationships torn apart by the viciousness of revolution and politics, Cigarette Girl introduces readers to the history of Indonesia through clove cigarettes and unrequited love.
About the author
Ratih Kumala is an author based in Jakarta, Indonesia. She also writes screenplays for TV and film. Cigarette Girl is her fifth work of fiction and has been published in three languages: English, German and its original language, Bahasa Indonesia.
Translated from the original Indonesian by Annie Tucker.