Behind The Smile
A Review - by Sue Reid
'Behind The Smile - The Story of Lek, a Bar Girl in Pattaya', (which is in Thailand), is the title of a trilogy
of books about the life of Lek, the eldest daughter of a typical rice farmer from a village in the northern rice
belt of Thailand. The four books, written by Owen Jones, are called: 'Daddy's Hobby', 'An Exciting Future',
'Maya - Illusion' and 'The Lady in the Tree'.
Behind The Smile
'Daddy's Hobby' takes its name from the bar where Lek goes to work in Pattaya when the bank threatens to
foreclose on the farm after the unexpected and early death of the pater familias. It is a family decision to send
Lek to work in the sex capital of South-East Asia, but one which Lek accepts willingly for the good of her typical
rice farming family as a whole.
Lek's reasons for going and the circumstances of her employment are clearly revealed in this first novel. The
story is told from Lek's point of view and reveals her anxieties about the job that she ends up doing. The reader
gets to know some of her colleagues in the sex tourism industry and some of her clients, who are euphemistically
called 'boyfriends' in the trade.
You learn of Lek's hopes and fears and actual experiences, but you are left to make up your own mind whether you
think that Lek is a victim or a predator; a good girl or a bad one; to be pitied or to be censured. You also get to
meet Lek's family: the mother who sent her away to work and the cousin whose bar she went to.
You are shown exactly how she gets started in the sex industry, because she actually goes there to work as a
barmaid with two of her best friends. They set off on an adventure together, not realising that they would become
This is not just the story of Lek, that is clear. It is the story of millions of girls the world over and not
only girls in poor countries either. Large rings of people-traffickers for the sex industry are being uncovered in
the West on a weekly basis.
The books leave the reader to think about whether the existence of such bars that attract foreign 'rich'
tourists for the purposes of sex is a good or a bad thing. Lek, like most Pattaya bar girls, does not complain
about the business she is in. It is just 'how it is' and could turn out to be a good thing or a bad one.
Readers of 'Daddy's Hobby' and the other two volumes will come away with the feeling that they understand the
predicament of the tens of thousands of Lek's in Pattaya alone a lot better after reading the trilogy. They will
also understand the Thai psyche far better as well.
Without giving too much away, the second novel follows on seamlessly from the first. It shows how ten years in
Pattaya as a bar girl in the sex industry formed Lek's new way of thinking. It shows how it affected the way she
deals with men in general and her fellow villagers, whom she no longer resembles in attitude.
The third book continues this theme, but leaps forward in time a few years. The second and third books explore
the difficulties of moving back into a farming community where no-one has left their fields, after having spent ten
years in an international city in the company of 'rich' foreigners.
The ebook costs only $3.99 and can be bought on Amazon: http://behind-the-smile.org
by +Owen Jones