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Customer Review

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good - but a bit too tidy, 29 May 2008
This review is from: The Widow and her Hero (Paperback)
I should make my biases clear right at the start: my paternal family had a very bad time under the Imperial Japanese Army in World War II. Because of what they suffered, I have given a lot of thought to the consequences of atrocities, and to the reliability of evidence.

We know from the start that Leo gets killed; the story is really about Grace, his widow, and how she finds out what happened to him and how she copes with that knowledge. I think the novel catches the tempo of the times very well: anyone who has read about the Fall of Malaya and Singapore in 1941/42 will be familiar with sequences of military cock-ups. Grace's reluctance to hear any more about what happened to her husband and to have to re-jig, yet again, the narrative she has set up in her head, is also very true to life. As the other reviewer commented, it's beautifully written. The characterisation is good, the scene setting quick and clear. It engages both the mind and the emotions.

So why four stars and not five? Well, in real life eyewitness accounts have a nasty habit of disagreeing, and you are left wondering who to believe: it's not just a case of accepting adjustments to the story, but working out exactly what those adjustments ought to be. Here, one eyewitness backs up another, or adds to the overall fund of information. More worryingly, the novel almost implies that once Grace dies, this atrocity will just about be over - though her grandaughter from her second marriage will remember it. In real life, it's not like that: the horror spreads out like ripples in a pool, across families and down the generations. Whenever any army, anywhere, commits atrocities, I can see the consequences knocking on for years. That's a pretty big lesson but, sadly, this novel fails to draw it out.
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Location: Essex (yes, really)

Top Reviewer Ranking: 35,475