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Burma Boy Hardcover – 7 Jun 2007


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape Ltd (7 Jun 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224076825
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224076821
  • Product Dimensions: 14.3 x 2 x 22.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,263,276 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

"excellent and moving account"
-- Sunday Express

'...a fresh perspective on the terrible Burma campaign...it's a departure
from the norm, leavening the gruesome depictions of combat with jokes,
proverbs and stories...' -- The Financial Times

'...so fantastic, filled with evocative detail... and like Catch 22 was
funny and humane...' -- Louise Doughty, Radio 5 Simon Mayo Bookclub

'a terrific story that needs to be told' -- Joel Morris, Radio Five Simon Mayo Bookclub

'haunting and funny... succeeds in not only in taking on a difficult
subject, but in capturing characters who are agonisingly real' -- New Statesman

'Haunting and humorous, it's a fascinating insight into a world of
conflict from a Nigerian point of view, illuminating a time and place that
has almost been stricken from the history books'
-- The Herald

'It's important we remember these stories... I never knew Africans
were in Burma fighting.. I enjoyed the book' -- Lemn Sissay, Radio Five Simon Mayo Bookclub

'a deeply moving, skillfully written and beautifully judged piece
of story telling... outstanding'
-- Christine Douglass, Radio 5 Simon Mayo Bookclub

`What's invigorating about Bandele's novel is his fine detail, and
the fresh perspective of the Africans who took part.'
-- Observer

`tense.'
-- Vogue: Rev'd Charlotte Sinclair.

Book Description

An intense, moving and funny tale of African soldiers in World War II, the first novel to bring narrative light to this neglected history. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By C. Morrison on 25 Oct 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book was a complete surprise: funny, touching and eye-opening. I had never thought about the soldiers who were fighting outside of Europe during the Second World War, especially young boys who didn't realise what they were fighting for. This book gives them identities and big personalities. As you connect with each of the characters you realise that you don't want to leave them behind or for them to leave you. The battle scenes are so vivid and tense that you could be there with Ali Banana, Bloken, Sergeant Damisa and all the soldiers. I recommend this to everyone - it's not just a war novel - it is a story of life, death, laughter and, ultimately, tragedy. It will stay with you for a very long time.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross TOP 500 REVIEWER on 12 Feb 2010
Format: Paperback
Like most Americans, I know almost nothing about the Burmese theater in World War II. (However, many years ago I did read George McDonald Fraser's excellent memoir of it, Quartered Safe Out Here, so I suppose I do know more than most.) This slender book is set mostly in that theater and, inspired by the author's father's own service in Burma as part of the King's African Rifles, seeks to both remind the reader of its relevance and the role of the many West African troops (mostly Nigerian) who were sent there to fight on behalf of the Allied forces.

The result is a bit of an odd duck -- more a series of sketches than a fully realized narrative. The book is littered with nuggets of history, research, and championing that, while interesting don't feel quite like they belong. So, for example, we learn enough intriguing details about "Janan" (General) Wingate that one's interest is perhaps piqued enough to go seek out biographies such as Christopher Sykes's Orde Wingate and Trevor Royle's Orde Wingate: Irregular Officer. Or we learn the technical aspects of jungle siegecraft or ambuscade. But at the heart of the book is 13-year-old soldier Farabiti "Ali Banana" whose adventures paint a sketch of the trials and tribulations faced by young soldiers like the author's father.

Through him, we follow the recruitment, training, and deployment of the West African Rifles to Burma as part of the "Chindit" forces sent to harass the Japanese rear lines.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Booklover on 24 Oct 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is a fantastic book, in part a coming-of-age story of the young Nigerian soldier, Ali Banana, but also a searing and unsettling look at political loyalities and personal friendships in the midst of absolute war. Ali Banana is hilarious in his boyish enthusiasm for 'King Joji', even when, at the end of novel, he's forced to question why he's even fighting for him. You could read this in a few hours and certainly come away the wiser...
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Format: Paperback
This book is a gem, beautifully written in every respect - characterisation is so effective that you feel you know Ali Banana and his comrades from the first few pages, and immediately care what happens to them. When Orde Wingate enters the story Bandele captures his character in a few deft strokes, like an impressionist painter. Wingate and his relationship with his soldiers live momentarily in your imagination. (This is not the place to argue about the effectiveness of his ideas and generalship.) Sergeant Damisa's speech in his basha is positively Shakespearian. It has been argued elsewhere that the campaign was a waste of life and resources, and that those men were fighting and dying solely for British 'honour'. That's not correct; it was very important that the Japanese should be clearly defeated, and that for a brief period British rule should be re-established in order to hand these nations over to their own rulers in the spirit of the Atlantic Charter. The dishonour would have been to have sat back, let the Americans win the Pacific War to the east, and let western Indo-China descend into chaos. The West Africans, Indians, Gurkhas, Britons and others in the Burma campaign WERE fighting for something worthwhile, even though it was for an orderly dismantling of the Empire, and peoples white, brown or white, Muslim, Christian or Buddhist, should respect and honour the memory of soldiers like Ali Banana. Many or most would have had little idea about what they were fighting for, but despite the awful developments in Indo-China that followed World War Two their efforts did eventually lead to a better world than it would have been had the Axis powers won. Back in West Africa they were treated disgracefully, a shameful episode in the history of the Empire. I wished this book was longer, and I hope that Bandele might return to a subject where he must have a great deal more to say - and what a character he has created. His Dad would be very proud.
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By Zulu Warrior on 14 Oct 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Fourteen year old Ali Banana is an apprentice blacksmith in winter of 1944 when he answers the call from King George to fight the Japanese in Burma. Finding himself behind enemy lines in the Burmese jungle he is a private in Thunder Brigade with orders to go behind enemy lines and cause as mush havoc as possible. Battling against the jungle, enemy snipers, disease and the loss of many close friends and being so far from home he starts to question why he is there, a reasonably short story in large print, entertaining and well written, although the authors long, long sentences seem to lack full stops.
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