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‘An outstanding book of astonishing power . . . One finishes it with an ache in the heart’

JON SWAIN, writer and foreign correspondent, author of River of Time

‘Through a profoundly moving tale that weaves together the connected stories of a victim, his surviving family, and members of the regime, Robert Carmichael brings us into the heart of the darkness that took over Cambodia, bringing it alive in the way no mere statistics can. I’ve not seen a comparable book about these horrors’
ADAM HOCHSCHILD, award-winning author of King Leopold’s Ghost

‘The intimate and heartbreaking story of the disappearance of one man, and the decades of suffering that followed as his family searched for answers’
SETH MYDANS, former Southeast Asia correspondent for the New York Times

In 1977, Neary was two years old and living in Paris when her father Ouk Ket, a Cambodian diplomat, was recalled home ‘to get educated to better fulfil [his] responsibilities’. It was to be many years before Neary and her mother Martine were finally able to establish what had happened to Ket, their father and husband.

In this moving memoir, through a tragedy that engulfs a single family, journalist Robert Carmichael, explores with great sensitivity Phnom Penh’s infamous S-21 prison and its commander, Comrade Duch, and Cambodia’s descent into terror.

During the Khmer Rouge’s four-year reign of terror, two million people died in Cambodia. In telling the moving story of the quest of two women to learn the fate of their husband and father, Tell Me What Happened to My Father illuminates the tragedy of a nation.

Reviews

In this brilliant and vivid book, Robert Carmichael skilfully weaves personal accounts with history and reflective analysis, giving essential context to the violence. It is a powerful and compelling story that avoids casting the perpetrators as 'monsters'; instead, showing them to be terrifyingly ordinary. And throughout, Martine and Neary's anguished quest for answers brings home the true scope of the suffering that reached far beyond the walls of S-21.
Nic Dunlop, author of The Lost Executioner
A love story that rises - so beautifully - above, and in stark contrast to, the absurd and criminal insanity of the Khmer Rouge. Meticulous and carefully documented, When the Clouds Fell from the Sky explores a wide range of Cambodia's issues while testifying in a deeply moving way about one of humanity's worst tragedies.
Bruno Carette, documentary-maker, Khmers Rouges Amers (Bitter Khmer Rouge)
An outstanding book of astonishing power, one of the most important and valuable to emerge from the horrors of the Pol Pot regime . . . a direct and vivid account of the cruelty and destruction of the country's darkest era . . . Carmichael relates a family's intensely painful private story with great sensitivity, weaving it into his overall narrative of the genocide . . . this and his sincerity make his book unforgettable. One finishes it with an ache in the heart.
Jon Swain, writer and foreign correspondent, author of <i>River of Time</i>
Like Auschwitz, like Stalin's purges, the mass murders of the Khmer Rouge are one of those extraordinary events that make us wonder about the human capacity for evil. Through a profoundly moving tale that weaves together the connected stories of a victim, his surviving family, and members of the regime, Robert Carmichael brings us into the heart of the darkness that took over Cambodia, bringing it alive in the way no mere statistics can. I've not seen a comparable book about these horrors.
Adam Hochschild, award-winning author of King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa
What does it mean to say two million people lost their lives during the years of Khmer Rouge rule? The true answer can only be told in microcosm, as Robert Carmichael has done in this intimate and heartbreaking story of the disappearance of one man, and the decades of suffering that followed as his family searched for answers.
Seth Mydans, former Southeast Asia correspondent for the New York Times
Few journalists have studied the Khmer Rouge tribunal as closely as Carmichael, whose book reveals the complex, often contradictory nature of international justice. What justice can be had when weighed against such crimes? It is an issue victims and observers alike have struggled with from the start . . . The book is like tracing paper, layering Ket's life over Cambodia's sad history. Threading it together are Martine and Ket's daughter Neary, whose early chance encounter with Carmichael yielded this extraordinary story.
Abby Seiff, History Today
As moving as it is well researched. Robert Carmichael's sharp prose and depth of knowledge of Cambodia's history transforms a daughter's search for her missing father into a nation's journey to find peace and reconciliation with its brutal history of genocide.
Loung Ung, author of First They Killed My Father