Bamboo Heart by Ann Bennett #BookReview

B Heart

Bamboo Heart has been waiting on my Kindle for a little while. I loved Bamboo Island and I found Bamboo Road really moving but I was worried that this, the first book of the Bamboo Trilogy might be very upsetting. Indeed, the Prologue takes us straight to a Japanese Prisoner of War Camp in 1943, where Tom Ellis has been incarcerated in a narrow individual earth lock-up. He keeps his spirits up by thinking of the girl he left in Penang.

The book moves on to London in 1986 where Laura Ellis, Tom’s daughter returns from Paris to see her father, who is sick. A successful city lawyer, she is dissatisfied with her life and worried about the actions of her boyfriend, Luke. Finding a photo of a young woman with oriental features, named Joy de Souza, Laura decides to travel to Thailand to learn more about her father’s wartime experiences and then on to Penang where he may have met Joy.

The book takes us back to pre-war London where Tom, also unhappy with his life, had decided to travel out east to manage workers on a rubber plantation. He becomes part of the expat community, but he also meets a local teacher who becomes very important to him. His easy-going life is suddenly changed by the approach of the Japanese, when he must become a soldier, but he becomes a captive in Singapore and is taken to the Death Railway.

The book reveals the suffering of so many soldiers and the repercussions in their lives post war. Laura’s experiences in Thailand and Penang are also life-changing but in a positive way. This is a challenging but fascinating story of the tragedy of war but hope for the future.

My interview about the Bamboo Trilogy is here  The book is available on Amazon UK

 

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The Orchid Tree by Siobhan Daiko #BookReview

Daiko

The Orchid Tree is a dramatic and moving account of wartime events in Hong Kong and the repercussions in 1949 for the three main characters, Kate, a British teenager, Charles, a young Eurasian and Sofia, whose home is on the neutral island of Macau.

 

Kate Wolseley tells us of her privileged life living on the Peak, in her own words.  Almost 16 when the Japanese bombs fall on the city, her days of horse riding, going to the yacht club and spending time with the son of their amah are changed to the hardship of Stanley Internment camp, where the family try to survive in one room, with very little food.  There she meets Charles Pearce, sharing the sadness and difficulties, as they fall in love.

 

Meanwhile in Macau, there is a semblance of normality despite the many Japanese soldiers, but Sofia Rodrigues, beloved daughter of the head of the successful Macau Consortium, has to bear the unpleasantness of her stepmother and her arrogant half-brother, because her mother was a Chinese concubine.  Seeking the company of Her Chinese uncle and her Russian governess she is growing up as a courageous, independent young woman.

 

When Kate reluctantly returns to Hong Kong, she is determined to help those who are less fortunate and she no longer expects happiness herself.  Lieutenant James Stevens, who has come to Hong Kong in search of a successful future hopes that Kate will become fond of him but she is evasive and uncommitting.   In dramatic circumstances, he encounters Sofia and suddenly his life takes another turn.

 

Knowing Hong Kong, I was impressed with the accuracy of the historical detail and the feel of the surroundings in this novel.  The complex strands of the plot work well and there are surprises to confound the reader.  A delightful mix of  adventure, romance and tragic modern  history.

Siobhan

Siobhan Daiko was born in and spent her childhood in colonial Hong Kong. She and her hubby moved to the UK shortly before it was handed back to China. She has worked in the City of London, once ran a post office/B&B in Herefordshire, and, more recently, taught Modern Foreign Languages in a Welsh high school. Siobhan now lives with her husband and two cats in the Veneto region of Northern Italy, where she spends her time writing, researching historical characters, and enjoying the dolce vita.

The Orchid Tree was inspired by her early life in Hong Kong. Her grandparents had been interned by the Japanese in the ex-colony from 1942 to 1945, and it was while she was researching their life in the internment camp that the idea for the novel came to her. She wanted to bring alive a time and place that no longer exist, but one that will forever be in her heart.