Tom Keneally: Shame and the Captives



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During the Second World War thousands of Axis prisoners of war were interned Australia and this book was inspired by an incident that took place when the author was a nine year old boy living in Sydney feeling his family s fear of the enemy within In August 1944 than 1000 Japanese prisoners tried to break out from the Cowra camp in New South Wales with nearly a uarter of them being killed in the attempt against the death of a four Australian soldiers In this gripping fictionalised version Keneally has written a parallel account of the events of that dramatic night in an attempt to explain the drastic action taken by the Japanese soldiers who felt humiliated by captivity and many of whom would ather face certain death than epatriation at the end of the war Keneally has peopled his novel with convincing characters caught up in their own world of petty fears and disappointments against the backdrop of a much greater conflict I was eager to ead Shame and the Captives not only because I haven t ead anything by Keneally since highschool which seemed emiss of me given his status in Australian literature but primarly because I was particularly intrigued by the premiseIt was only a few months ago I learned thanks to Hannah and Emil that during World War 2 Australia interred thousands of esidents of enemy blood For some eason I didn t consider that Australia would also have hosted Prisoners of War largely I suppose because of the elative distances between the main fighting fronts and our country excepting the attempted Japanese incursions in the north The story of Shame and The Captives closely follows the events of the Cowra Breakout in 1944 Camp B of No 12 Prisoner of War Compound Cowra was the scene of a bloody skirmish when many of the 1104 Japanese prisoners of war tuned on their captors and attempted to escape While Keneally clearly states in a foreword titled Where the Tale Comes From that the Shame and The Captives is a parallel account or a tale provoked by the events that unfolded in Cowra and further that his characters are not designed to eflect any virtues sins follies fevers and acts of courage evident in any of the eal actors in the Cowra outbreak this novel is a blend of fact and fictionKeneally s epresentation of the events and the people involved may be fictional but it seems an entirely plausible account with the histories personalities and motives the author ascribes to the characters seemingly authentic in light of what we know of history Delving not only into the lives of the men in the camp the Japanese prisoners like Tengan and Aoki the camp commander Colonel Abercare and his subordinate Suttor Shame and the Captives extends beyond the camps boundaries into the community epresented primarily by Alice and her father in law Duncan Exploring the themes of shame honour belief loyalty cultural disparity compassion and espect Keneally provides context for the Cowra Breakout and Australian society in the period of war One of the interesting ideas Keneally explores is Australia s trust that if they treated their prisoners with care according to the Geneva Convention their soldiers in the custody of enemy nations would be treated with eual fairness Suttor and Alice whose espective son and husband are POW s cling to this ideal Unfortunately the Japanese mostly despised the Australians for their compassion since their honour code insisted that death was preferable to imprisonment The Breakout then was essentially a mass suicide attempt a means for the Japanese to die with the honour their beliefs demanded of themWhile I was utterly fascinated by the story of the Shame and The Captives unfortunately I found the writing wit. Based on true events this beautifully endered novel from the author of Schindler's List and The Daughters of Mars brilliantly explores a World War II prison camp where Japanese prisoners esolve to take drastic action to wipe away their shameAlice is a young woman living on her father in law's farm on the edge of an Australian country town while her husband is held prisoner in Europe When Giancarlo an Italian anarchist at the prisoner of war camp down the oad is assigned to work

H very little dialogue often dry and dispassionate I was in some ways eminded of a school history lesson worksheet where an attempt is made to enliven the learning of facts by couching them in a story Had I not been so intrigued by this period of history Keneally s prose may have esulted me in abandoning itNevertheless I consider Shame and the Captives to be a compelling and thought provoking novel one I particularly would ecommend to Australians interested in our country s history 35 This story is about a prison camp of WW11 It takes place on a farm near Cowra Australia during 1944 1945Japanese POW s plan a break out Italians and Koreans were also in the camp Two hundred and thirty four of the prisoners and four Australian soldiers died These missing escapees were ecaptured The novel is inspired by true events the author was a young boy himself and emembers the shocking tragedy everyone in his nearby community was sick by the newsAt the start of the book we meet Alice She is living on the farm Her father in law Duncan Herman owns it Her husband Neville is a prisoner of the Germans in Austria Alice had met her husband at a dance did not know him long before she marriedAlice is now stuck living with her Father in law who has lost his own wife Duncan we learn slowly is actually a very aware wise man He may have lost his wife have no interest in woman un a tight ship as boss on his farm but he knows when to speak and when to keep uiet nothing goes by him that he does not seeAlice without child becomes interested in the POW s truckloads Japanese men arrive on the farm to work to fill in potholes Duncan will manage them Alice offers lemonade to the men wanting to treat the prisoners well hoping cosmic energy her husband is also being treated well Later we will see Alice kill one of the men she serves lemonade to Alice will also get close to one of the Italian captives Giancarlo MolisanoPronounced as John Carlo She teaches Giancarlo English brings him food and drink while he works on the farm She soon brings herself to him to his bedroom A love affair develops We know her father in law Duncan knows Alice is often wondering why he says nothing but emember Duncan is a wise man We will meet Aoki Japanese Prisoner head of a tent one of the older veteran of the camp He had already been shot in the leg before he arrived so walks with a limp Aoki is a oll model in ways to other prisoners He s clear about his eligious and cultural suffering by being a captive He could never let his wife know for example that he is a prisoner for the SHAME of it Goda is the other senior prisoner uns another tentWe meet Major Suttor an efficient but dispassionate officer He also has a son in a Japanese prisoner of war camp Suttor writes for a adio show eflecting about everyday family life in Australia Other characters English Colonel Ewan Abercare He tries to keep the prisoners happy give them dignity He will die a hero at the end of the war ather than be SHAMED The entire purpose of The breakout is to Preserve Dignity In Japanese thinking they are suffering from eligious SHAME by being captive Tengan a former pilot is one of the younger Japanese men amongst the compound Spunky energy One of my favorite scenes is when he ejects baseball then later finds himself in a very embarrassing wresting match We meet many other characters Even a Swiss doctor and a sexy dancer At the start of this book the author saysFiction has always tried to tell the truth by telling lies by fabrication I thought about this sentence often Possibly the fabrication was too much If this same story was 100 pages less I could have felt the power THE TRUTH the horrific tragedy of this war. N the farm she hopes that being kind to him will somehow influence her husband's treatment What she doesn't anticipate is how dramatically Giancarlo will expand her outlook and self knowledgeBut what most challenges Alice and her fellow townspeople is the utter foreignness of the thousand plus Japanese inmates and their culture which the camp commanders fatally misread Mortified by being taken alive in battle and preferring a violent death to the shame of living they plan an outbrea.

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Deeper I ve said it before WAR is WAR is WAR A tragedy period I needed to concentrate diligently with this novel We need details and blemishing to ound out our interest with our storytelling The native woman did coat themselves with pig fat he had seen it on the hillsides behind the beachesyet this was a challenging ead for me even with several enjoyable fabricated scenes At times I didn t know if I was in compound B or C or if if matteredAm I glad I ead it YES I gained value just hard work for my brain I would be interested know about or hear the author speak about is HIS experience as a child around this war What he emembers How he felt Things he heard adults speak about How it stayed with him Shaped him Thank you to Netgalley the publishing company and Thomas Keneally I had never heard of the Cowra Breakout the escape of Japanese POW s from a prison camp in Australia in 1944 before I decided to ead this book I wanted to ead this because I loved other books by this author most notably Schindler s List and most ecently The Daughters of Mars I was taken by the author s notes writing and thoughts at the beginningYet I hope there s a truth in this fiction in its imagining of motives and in the actions of these characters that they do epresent in feeling what happened in those times Fiction has always tried to tell the truth by telling lies by fabricationMultiple perspectives are presented two of the men in charge the Japanese prisoners and Alice Herman wife of a an Australian soldier who is a POW on the other side There are also Italian POW s but their story is not the center of the novel and we see only bit of the Italian perspective in the character of Giancarlo who works on Duncan s Alice s father in law farm as part of the program that sends prisoners to work for farmers in the areaThe next chapters telling of the capture of two of the prisoners gives the cultural perspective on honor and what it meant to be captured They preferred death to capture and death ather than bringing dishonor to their families While these chapters shed light on what happens later and give understanding to the seminal event of the novel it was slow paced in parts and I found my interest waning I felt bogged down at times by too many points of view Aiko Tengan Goda to name a few but then when the narrative would get back to Alice s story and to Abercare the British colonel s story my interest picked up again In addition to depicting the Breakout Keneally has embedded some other story lines that show the impact of the war not just on the prisonersHaving ead the intro and been so taken with the author s thoughts on fiction and telling the story of what happened I moved on with it since I was curious to see how this historic event would play out I m glad I stuck with it because I think that the characters invoke the feeling of what happened in those times Having said that I can t give it than three stars as the middle was a struggle for me to push through I would ecommend it those interested in all aspects of WWII since I would think that this event is little known except perhaps in Australia and JapanThanks to Atria Books and NetGalley Most Australians of a certain age have heard of the Cowra Breakout Early in the morning of 5 August 1944 over a thousand Japanese prisoners of war attempted to escape from a POW internment camp located near Cowra a small town in a farming community some 300 km west of Sydney This was the largest prison escape of World War II During the escape and the manhunt that followed 231 Japanese soldiers and four Australian soldiers were killed Many of the Japanese soldiers who died were either killed by other prisoners or committ. K to shattering and far eaching effects on all the citizens around themIn a career spanning half a century Thomas Keneally has proved a master at exploring ordinary lives caught up in extraordinary events With this profoundly gripping and thought provoking novel inspired by a notorious incident in New South Wales in 1944 he once again shows why he is celebrated as a writer who looks into the heart of the human condition with a piercing intelligence that few can match Sunday Telegra.

Thomas KeneallyThomas Keneally was born in 1935 and his first novel was published in 1964 Since then he has written a considerable number of novels and non fiction works His novels include The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith Schindler's List and The People's Train He has won the Miles Franklin Award the Booker Prize the Los Angeles Times Prize the Mondello International Prize and has been made a Literary Lion of the New York Public Library a Fellow of the American Academy recipient of the University of California gold medal and is now the subject of a 55 cent Australian stampHe has held various academic posts in the United States but lives in Sydney