Unlike many memoirists of the Cambodian civil war, Bizot was an adult and not Cambodian. In fact, he was the only foreigner actually detained by the Khmer Rouge who survived the experience. This was in the early years of their insurgency and is detailed in first part of the book; the second half has elements that are more familiar to the reader of histories and memoirs of this era and describes his experiences inside the French compound after the fall of Phnom, Penh.Bizot's child figures prominently, though always as an absent figure; her mother, a Cambodian, is even further removed from the narrative. The time jump between sections is disconcerting and lends a fragmented air to the book. Since Bizot worked with ancient Buddhist texts and objects, perhaps this is deliberate parallelism. Read with one of the Cambodian narratives of the Khmer Rouge period, with Swain's The River of Time and the film The Killing Fields for a rounded description of the foreign experience prior to evacuation.