Mr. Twan Eng has written a quite exceptional book although the style of writing is almost old-fashioned. The story line is perfectly paced and the plot is free from clichés. This book is about solitude, the meaning of loyalty, fate, family relationships but mostly about the relationship between two male soulmates who wind up on opposite sides in a world war. It is clear that the protagonist becomes the lover of the Japanese Endo-San who is presented as his ever destined soulmate. This book is first and foremost a love story but Twan Eng's description of this same sex love affair is so subtly protrayed that prejudiced readers (unwilling to accept the fact that two men can fall in love) can easily overlook it and enjoy the book still the same. If anyone is in doubt, thinking that it's just a Platonic friendship, read page 320 where there seems little doubt that Twan Eng is not really describing martial arts fight but in fact Philip and Endo having sex. It's a very tastefully crafted prose. Yet, sometimes I wondered why Twan Eng chooses to disguise the physical nature of this relationship so much sine the unconditional (endless) love Philip holds for Endo is the reason for everything he does and controls the story line.
The only serious shortcoming in this book is that the characterisation is a bit cartoon-like and it's over-emphasis on fate excludes more realistic approach to explore the nature of the relationship between Endo and Philip. The relationship can assumed to be triggered by a typical adoration of a pupil of a master, the pupil, being Philip, feeling left out by his own father and finding a father figure in Endo.
Anyway, this is a beautifully written and gripping story that's well worth reading.