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(2017) Once We Were There by Bernice Chauly

Set amid the upheaval of the Reformasi movement in KL, the novel chronicles journalist Delonix Regia’s personal struggle to confront the terrible secret of a city where babies are sold and girls trafficked, after her two-years-old daughter Alba is kidnapped.

“The Reformasi movement was a time that transformed me greatly, as a person, as a woman, as a wife, and a mother. The novel took six years to write, and when I finished it in 2014, a lot of people loved it but said it was too bleak, too KL, too much drugs, sex and politics,” said Chauly.

“The experience of being a Malaysian living in KL during the Reformasi movement, coupled with the depth of suffering endured when the daughter is kidnapped, made a very intensive read. But if a reader has to feel that way, then for the author it must have been hell writing it,” says Malaysia National Laureate and PM Book Prize judge Muhammad Haji Salleh.

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