The hot Summer is taking its time winding down. Hot, lazy, fatigued, I find myself scanning the bookshelf and I pull from the spine a book my mum bought me for Christmas two years ago. Having hardly looked at the cover, I parked on the couch and was surprised (and angry at myself) when I learnt I had a book in my house for so long by the author who wrote Schapelle Corby's autobiography.
Hotel Kerobokan, the cover read. The shocking inside story of Bali's most notorious jail.
By the time I had finished the final sentence on the first page, I was hooked, turning each page as if there was a pot of gold at the end. It was more than a book. More than a story. The pages between the front and back cover are true recordings of real events that go on every single day while you and I go about our everyday duties.
One Australian inmate, Mick from the book quotes; It's a mental camp. In this place, you get worse, not better.
And that's exactly the impression I got within the first few pages. The author/journalist, Kathryn Bonella describes the hell hole perfectly and clearly in the first chapte, you can almost feel the intimidating prisoners pulling on your sleeve begging you to go and buy them a copy of Penthouse. As horrific as the jail was to Kathryn, she became fascinated with the crazy world of drugs, sex, gambling and where murders sleep alongside thieves.
Hotel Kerobokan is the work of Kathryn's eighteen month stay in Bali, talking to prisoners and people who were freed, but then returned. The characters she met and brings to you on the pages are murderers, rapists, gang members and international drug traffickers.
The more I read on, my imaginative mind tricked me into believing I was reading a fictional book. Surely all of this doesn't go on while we are sunbathing on Kuta beach, sipping cocktails and indulging in Balinese massage?
In one chapter, I found myself wiping tears from my eyes as I read about a lady dubbed 'Black Monster.' The woman was pregnant and played on her pregnancy for attention. She sometimes screamed and howled in the middle of the night as if she was going to give birth. It was all the gossip amongst the cells. One question on all the prisoners lips, Who was the father? When 'Black Monster' gave birth to her child, her fellow inmates were shocked to meet a pale skinned angel with a head of curls. After further reading, you discover a guard fathered the child through the prison bars.
This is just one of many shock horror stories you will encounter while reading Hotel Kerobokan. From inmates and prison guards paying doctors to use their clinic for sex, to the incredible drug use and conspiracy with guards and police, the book is one huge wake up call. Bali is not what you think - Indonesia is not what you think.
Prior to writing Schapelle Corby's autobiography and this book, Hotel Kerobokan, Kathryn studied journalism and spent time freelancing for 60 Minutes. As a result, her writing is factual, clear, to the point and precise, which is refreshing. No five page descriptions on feeling, emotions - just plain, dirty, simple, terrifying facts.
Kathryn includes hundreds of quotes that stay with you long after you have closed the back cover. Quotes and phrases from inmates and photos with graphic detail of the inside. There are interviews with the inmates with word for word answers and horrific information on drug recipes that are used everyday in the jail. It makes you wonder how the prisoners are still alive.
Kathryn Bonella is brilliant at bringing the jail to your loungeroom, your hammock or bedroom - wherever you find yourself getting lost in the pages. Be warned, it is shocking, will make you furious and make you cry. You may even re-think that Balinese holiday.
Hotel Kerobokan, published by Macmillan Australia can be purchased from all major book stores or visit the author's webpage.