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Customer Review

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down!, 12 Jun. 2007
This review is from: Forgotten Armies: Britain's Asian Empire & War with Japan (Forgotten Armies) (Paperback)
I had assumed this book was going to be a straightforward military history of Britain vs. Japan during the Second World War. Well, not quite. Instead, it's a history of the years 1941-1945, from the point of view of the "natives" of Britain's Asian colonies - India, Burma, the Malay states and Singapore. It's certainly an unusual perspective on the War. I found it fascinating and once I'd started it, couldn't put it down.

I do have one quibble, which is that while the book was a real page-turner, I wasn't 100% convinced by the authors' scholarship. They occasionally lapse into purple prose more reminiscent of pulp fiction than history books, and I sometimes felt they might be exaggerating for dramatic effect.

For example, describing Japanese trade in South-East Asia prior to the War:

"There was underway no less than a creeping Japanese colonisation of Southeast Asia. It is striking in the years before 1941 how much of the region's trade had fallen, almost by stealth, to the Japanese. After the First World War, business strategists toured the region in 'sightseeing' parties . . . (continues in this vein for three pages) . . . Yet the synergy between patriotism and trade, the often spontaneous information-gathering by Japanese individuals and societies, made any underlying conspiracy hard to expose."

Well, quite. Three pages of suggestions that Japanese trade was part of a conspiracy directed from Tokyo, but no factual support backed up by references. I felt similarly frustrated at other points in the book.

Another thing I found frustrating was that the book covered so much, so many different aspects, that I felt I was just skimming the surface of events (about which I'd known nothing before) and I wished the book was three times as long! The authors' don't include a "Further Reading" list, but nevertheless I think I will read more about some of the events in this book. And I will definitely put the authors' next book, 'Forgotten Wars', on my 'to-read' list.

I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the Second World War, the British or Japanese Empires, or Asian history.
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