Gun Dealers' Daughter

Gina Apostol

Book cover

I picked up this book after seeing Gina Apostol speak at an event earlier this year, and in advance of her new book “Insurrecto” (which is being released tomorrow!). She is a big personality on stage, and this comes through in the book as well.

The novel follows Soledad Soliman, a college student who is the eponymous daughter of arms dealers in Marcos-era Manila. It follows her involvement with resistance groups, and her slow process of learning the full nature and extent of her parents’ business. Apostol ably skewers the ridiculousness and hypocrisy of the Filipino and American elite who benefited from the dictatorship at the expense of the people. While reading this book, I was often reminded of Jaroslav Hasek’s writing in “The Good Soldier Svejk”, which similarly skewers the Habsburg-era elites of the Czech lands and central Europe. Much like Hasek, Apostol seems to take a special delight in portraying bodily grossness of those who fancy themselves above such things.

It took me a while to get into the book, as Apostol writes a frame story to the main narrative that is intentionally fragmented and difficult to follow. I think it ultimately makes sense if you stick with it, and does add some depth of perspective to the story. But I didn’t really get on board with the book until it started following the main action in Manila.

My Goodreads rating: 4 stars

IndieBound