At the stroke of midnight on 20 May 2002, the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste became the first new nation of the 21st century. From that moment, those who fought for independence have faced a challenge even bigger than shaking off Indonesian occupation: running a country of their own.
Beloved Land picks up the story where world attention left off. Blending narrative history, travelogue, and personal reminiscences based on four years of living in the country, Gordon Peake shows the daunting hurdles that the people of Timor-Leste must overcome to build a nation from scratch, and how much the international community has to learn if it is to help rather than hinder the process.
Family politics, squabbles, power struggles, old romances, and even older grudges are woven into life in this land of intrigue and rumours in the most remarkable ways.
Yet above all, Beloved Land is a story about the one million East Timorese who speak nearly 20 different languages, and who are exuberantly building their nation. Written with verve and deep affection, the book introduces a set of colourful Timorese and international characters, and brings them to life unforgettably.
Winner of The ACT Book Of The Year, 2015
REVIEWS OF "BELOVED LAND"
'Besides being a political diagnosis, it’s an absorbing piece of travel writing, vivid and full of well-turned character sketches ... The mixture of forthrightness and warmth, and knowledge, makes this book not simply informative but in a quiet way exemplary.'
Owen Richardson, The Saturday Age
'The reader gets a sense of a complex nation where history is a layer cake, with the past always present.'
Jenny Tabakoff, The Courier Mail
Gordon Peake has written a brilliant, serendipitous book about Timor-Leste that is the best work on the subject in recent times. His colourful insider tales from a parade of characters met in smoke-filled Dili cafes, mountain villages, and even factories in distant Northern Ireland tap into the complexity and chaos of life in the newly independent state. His critical approach and laconic wit spare no personalities, from UN bureaucrats to Timorese high-flyers, who would do well to read and heed this work.'
Time will tell whether Timor-Leste's good fortune is merely a bubble inflated by resources revenues, or the beginning of its march towards prosperity. Even though the odds are long, Beloved Land will leave you quietly willing on the underdog.
Gillian Terzis, The Australian
Peake has an ear for a phrase, describing a coffee shop where the Timorese elite hang out – not so many years since they were prowling in armed groups around city streets – as ‘shrouded in cigarette smoke, intrigues and dodgy deals’. His fondness for this fledgling nation, both brand new and shackled by history, is palpable throughout.
Mick Herron, Geographical
'Beloved Land is a clear-eyed and critical love letter to Timor-Leste. It’s also a survival manual for bewildered malae (foreigners) in this complex and resilient nation.'
‘Peake’s book is a poignant and invariably deadpan mix of anecdote and analysis, and in my view is the best thing written in English about the country in many a long year.’`
Simon Roughneen, The Edge Review