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Interesting but flawed
on 31 July 2011
I agree with everything Ms Skinner, the previous reviewer, has already written about highly loosely relevant facts being used as padding, and the rather bizarre array of photographs. In truth, there probably isn't sufficient specific information about Dame Margot's wartime experiences available to justify a biography of her. Readers looking for indepth analysis of her character, motivation, decisions and opinions will be disappointed, either because she is an enigma, or because she's a fairly typical POW/career nurse of her day and there's nothing particularly enlightening to be said.
However, this will prove an interesting read for fans of the TV series "Tenko" (the rest of my review contains spoilers, so only continue reading if you've watched all three series).
I very much enjoyed identifying elements of the book that were reflected in the series. For example, the books alludes to the problems that were encountered initially by mixing people from different social and racial groups (Sylvia and Christina's scene, and various scenes between Blanche and others), about doctors being forced to falsify death certificates (Beatrice and Sato), about grasshoppers being seen as a culinary treat (Maggie and Dorothy), about prisoners becoming pregnant by the guards and undergoing rudimentary abortions (Dorothy and May), about already-pregnant women suffering stillbirth (Sally), about women coming up with imaginative recipes from meagre rations (Sylvia's marmalade). There are many more. It's explained why Sato might have been frustrated and embarrassed by his role, and why survival rates and morale amongst children were high. We learn that women organised the camps as a sort of liberal democracy, with people forming smaller "families" or cliques; this too was evident in the television series. We learn how the Dutch fit in, and the role played by the nuns. We are also told that Dame Margot didn't enjoy the tv series, claiming that it was unrealistic, although her biographer points out that it was probably because the character who was based on her was portrayed as a lesbian.
In summary, I'd recommend this book as an interesting and compelling light read for fans of "Tenko" but not to those who are particularly interested in Dame Margot Turner.