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Shame and the Captives [Kindle Edition]

Thomas Keneally
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

On the edge of a small Australian town, far from the battlefields of the Second World War, a camp holds thousands of Japanese, Italian and Korean prisoners of war. The locals are unsure how to treat the 'enemy', though Alice Herman, whose young husband is himself a prisoner in Europe, becomes drawn to the Italian soldier sent to work on her father-in-law's farm. The camp commander and his deputy, each concealing a troubled private life, are disunited. And both fatally misread their Japanese captives, who burn with shame at being taken alive. The stage is set for a clash of cultures that has explosive, far-reaching consequences.

Product Description


His steamroller energy, his incredible facility as a teller of tales, is undiminished . . . A tremendously accomplished novel, rich in character, detail and incident. It is the work of a master novelist (Kevin Power Sunday Business Post (Ireland))

Keneally's gift, and his blessing to the many hundreds of characters he has created, is always to find the extraordinary within the ordinary. (Peter Pierce The Australian)

Book Description

A dramatic and fascinating novel based on a notorious breakout by Japanese prisoners from an Australian POW camp in 1944, encapsulating the impact of war on ordinary lives.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1080 KB
  • Print Length: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre (10 April 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #17,823 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The chasms between cultures 18 May 2014
By Katharine Kirby TOP 100 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Kindle Edition
The Australian officers, in charge of the compounds where several different nationalities of interns are housed, have varying degrees of understanding and kindness towards their charges. For Major Suttor, it is a bargain, a balance, as his son David is prisoner of war in Changi and on the Burma railroad. News of him is sketchy so his father very much uses 'Do as you would be done by' as his approach. He has an interesting side to him, he writes a successful radio drama, along the lines of The Archers in the UK.

Alice, left stranded on an outback farm with her father in law Duncan, following the capture of her husband Neville, by Germany, feels much the same. A young Italian prisoner, Giancarlo, is delivered to help them out. An intense relationship follows, with unexpected consequences.

Shame comes in all forms. Primarily the shame of the Japanese warriors who are already as dead to their families and have little to lose, but much to gain from splendid eternity. They open out their chests for a bullet and devise various other efficient ways of achieving glory by death. The other kind of shame might be that which is felt by the unintended abuse of kindness, in Alice's case. Duncan is doing his level best to keep going and waits for the return of his on to the farm while hoping another will be as fair to him as he is being to the stranger in their midst. Alice has another agenda.

Throughout, the translator, Nevski, is a sad chorus character, an onlooker without power who can see both sides.

The tension rises towards the full moon when the Japanese plan a rebellion. Meanwhile animals must be tended, polite local society respected, rocky marriages must be nursed along, administration for the camp kept up to date.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition
Opening a book by Thomas Keneally, we know we will be led into a complex world where humanity itself will be placed under a compassionate but unflinching eye. This fictionalised account of a historical prison breakout by over 500 Japanese POWs from a camp in New South Wales in 1944 is another example of Keneally’s expansive storytelling.

Almost documentary in its approach, this moves between the personal and the political, weaving deep back-stories with present conflicts. At its heart, is the disjunction between the Japanese prisoners and their mostly Australian captors: for the Japanese, to be captive and alive degrades their warrior status, and the breakout itself is more an attempt to die with honour than to escape.

The scenes set in the prison alternate with the home life of Alice in the nearby town, whose husband is in a German POW camp; her relationship with an Italian prisoner whose own philosophy is so markedly different from the Japanese one; and the sometimes tragic lives of the camp commanders.

Keneally writes elegantly and weaves his research seamlessly into the story he is telling so that what we have is an organic whole. He breaks that supposedly cardinal rule of novel writing – show, don’t tell – and proves that ‘telling’, in the hand of a master, works superbly.

This is such a dense and intense book that any review can only give a taste of what it offers, and each reader will find their own way into the book and take different things from it. So not a simple or necessarily an easy book, but one which is richly rewarding.

(This review is from an ARC courtesy of the publisher)
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four stars this time 26 Nov. 2014
By andy
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Having thoroughly enjoyed his previous novel - "The Daughter of Mars", and enjoyed other novels by Thomas Keneally, I didn't have to think twice about downloading "Shame and the Captives". I was fairly sure of being in for an entertaining and insightful read. And I was entertained and it was insightful.

Characters are well defined and easy to identify and there is a definite sense of a time and place about it. The story develops in a way that isn't predictable which surely can only be good (as long as you haven't read a précis of the novel by an amazon reviewer). At just under four hundred pages it isn't too long a novel and yet there is still much that fill the pages.

Regarding the prose I found that there were many words (such as: Axiomatically, Hubristic, Distrait, Hecatomb, Exegesis, Incarnadine and many others) that I would have to look up the meaning of. If the novels that I have previously read by Thomas Keneally had such prose I don't remember them so - but I stand to be corrected, and as for axiomatically - maybe I'm just thick?

Although a fictional account of a fictional POW camp - albeit influenced by a real camp and real incident at Cowra in New South Wales, it is such an absorbing story that you might find yourself forgetting that it is a work of fiction.

But for the not infrequent need to stop to look up yet another obscure word (or at least what seams obscure to me) I would be saying a definite five star read.
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