The Rainbow Troops

15 ratings 5 stars

The Indonesian record-breaking bestseller, in the tradition of Slumdog Millionaire and Shantaram.

Book Setting: Belitong Island, Indonesia
The Rainbow Troops, Andrea Hirata

The Indonesian record-breaking bestseller, in the tradition of Slumdog Millionaire and Shantaram.

Ikal is a student at Muhammadiyah Elementary, on the Indonesian island of Belitong, where graduating from sixth grade is considered a major achievement. His school is under constant threat of closure. In fact, Ikal and his friends - a group called The Rainbow Troops - face threats from every angle: pessimistic, corrupt government officials; greedy corporations hardly distinguishable from the colonialism they've replaced; deepening poverty and crumbling infrastructure; and their own faltering self-confidence. But in the form of two extraordinary teachers, they also have hope, and Ikal's education is an uplifting one, in and out of the classroom.

You will cheer for Ikal and his friends as they defy the town's powerful tin miners. Meet his first love - a hand with half-moon fingernails that passes him the chalk his teacher sent him to buy. You will roar in support of Lintang, the class's barefoot maths genius, as he bests the rich company children in an academic challenge.

First published in Indonesia, The Rainbow Troops went on to sell over 5 million copies. Now it is set to captivate readers across the globe. This is classic story-telling: an engrossing depiction of a world not often encountered, bursting with charm and verve.

Available Formats

  • Trade Paperback
    $32.99 RRP
    ISBN: 9781742758589
    Published: 02/01/2013
    Imprint: Vintage Australia
    Extent: 304 pages
  • eBook
    ISBN: 9781742758596
    Published: 02/01/2013
    Imprint: RHA eBooks Adult
    Extent: 432 pages
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"This totally disarming book is a delight and inspiration to read - wonderful prose and a beautiful story." - Maryan Heffernan, Manly Daily

"A wonderful tale about what a pack of schoolkids, two caring teachers and a powerful sense of hope can achieve. I loved it." - Vikas Swarup, author of Q&A/Slumdog Millionaire

"The Rainbow Troops has become a cult novel in its own country and is the first Indonesian novel to find its way into the international general fiction market. It's a coming-of-age novel, a beautiful little love story, and a David and Goliath tale about courage, persistence, loyalty and dedication, and, most of all, the value and power of education. If it were not so gently told, this story would also be a savage critique of corporate greed and government corruption, but it's easy enough for the reader to see the grotesque gap between rich and poor without having it spelt out.
A poetic evocation of a brutal life." - Kerryn Goldsworthy, The Sydney Morning Herald

"This is a charming and uplifting book, full of exotic Indonesian words, references to Islamic prayer times and ethnic groups that peacefully coexist (Malays, Chinese immigrants, native Sawangs). It makes for a refreshing break from the middle-class navel-gazing of most Western fiction." - The Economist

"Incredibly alive, direct, moving, good-humoured, informative." - Nicholas Jose

"The Rainbow Troops is a heart-moving tale of family, friendship, community and the inspiration to be found in those who care." - Janet de Neefe, Founder of Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, Indonesia

"The Rainbow Troops is an impressive literary achievement - a sweeping tale of life on Belitong Island, in Indonesia. In his debut novel Andrea Hirata has created a memorable cast of characters, whose twists and turns of fortune are at once believable and heart-rending. This is a powerful work of the imagination, which explores love, friendship, and the importance of education with uncommon wisdom and wit: a window opening onto a world that is by turns marvellous and mysterious - a book to treasure." - Christopher Merrill, Director, International Writing Program at the University of Iowa

"I first heard the name “Laskar Pelangi” (The Rainbow Troops) in September 2008. All of a sudden it was everywhere: the book, the song, the movie. The first book of Andrea Hirata’s life-inspired quartet, Laskar Pelangi has taken Indonesia by storm since its release in 2005, selling a record number of copies. Its popularity remains unsurpassed. In 2008, it was adapted to film, and in that medium it has earned awards and gained recognition worldwide.

As both a story and a literary work, Laskar Pelangi is priceless — so admired that men have proposed to women using this book in place of a ring. It contains a unique, new way of telling a story. Set on the Indonesian island of Belitong, Laskar Pelangi conveys a sad tale with laughter and lightheartedness. It tells of oppressed people protesting in admirably good humor, without swearing, without violence, without a divisive political movement, and without anyone to take up their cause. The vicissitudes of growing up are depicted brilliantly; the reader will be touched by an absurd yet pure first love, and one can’t help but smile at the innocence of the children as they earnestly plan their futures. Above all, Laskar Pelangi tackles serious issues, such as the right to education and corporate exploitation, while framing them within the tale of a beautiful childhood journey and friendship.

The epic journey that is Laskar Pelangi, the character of the book itself and the central theme of education (from any angle: the way people value their existence, in the community, amongst each other) all contribute to making this book a universally touching experience. Education is a basic human right, and all over the world there are children and teachers who are still struggling to secure this right. For reasons of poverty, marriage, lack of teachers, lack of students, not to mention natural and social disasters, many children do not have access to education. Laskar Pelangi is a product of and a medium for the inspiration to overcome these circumstances. This is one of the reasons the book has been so popular in Indonesia.

I hope everyone loves this story as much as I do. Selamat membaca." - Angie Kilbane, Jakarta

"Hirata’s writing is as brilliant, beautiful, remarkable, and engrossing as the characters and the world he brings us. If you’ve ever been afraid to dream, or disbelieved in the true power of learning, read The Rainbow Troops and you’ll be changed by the two guardians and their small number of students, whose intelligence and vibrancy will intoxicate you. This is a treasure from one of the largest Muslim societies in the world." - Ishmael Beah, author of A Long Way Gone

"The Rainbow Troops is a charming, funny, moving story about growing up and going to school on the island of Belitong in Indonesia. The Rainbow Troops are students in a poor, beleaguered village school, run by a pair of courageous and generous teachers who protect and champion their tiny class. I loved reading these stories about brave, smart, resourceful kids, set in a magical landscape that includes clouds, crocodiles, and shamans, as well as tin mining, politics, and regional school competitions." - Roxana Robinson, author of Cost

Andrea Hirata

Andrea Hirata

Andrea Hirata was born in Gantong, Belitong, East Sumatra, Indonesia. He received a scholarship to study a masters degree at Sheffield Hallam University, UK, majoring in economic theory. He graduated with honours.

After finishing his studies, he returned to Indonesia and worked for Indonesia's biggest telecommunication company, TELKOM.

In 2004, he volunteered for tsunami disaster relief in Aceh. In so doing, he saw ruined schools that reminded him of his old promise to his elementary school teacher, Muslimah. Back then, when he was in the 5th grade, he made a promise that one day he would write a book for his teacher. And thus he started writing his first novel.
The novel is called Laskar Pelangi: The Rainbow Troops and was never intended for mainstream publication. Now The Rainbow Troops is the biggest Indonesian novel ever, having sold millions of copies. .
The novel has been adapted for a feature film, television series, and musical theatre.
Hirata has contributed significantly to the development of modern Indonesian literature.