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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Telling it like it was....., 27 Aug 2012
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This review is from: Tomorrow You Die: The Astonishing Survival Story of a Second World War Prisoner of the Japanese (Hardcover)
"You can't always tell a book by its cover" they say -and, as both other reviews have noted, the cover picture here might well have some think at first this is far more some "action" type war tale than it actually is. If so, the last key four words in the small print subtitle should start to set them right: "Prisoner of the Japanese". For anyone already (or "still"?) knowing at least an outline history of the WW2 in the Far East, they really say all that's needed on the sort of journey this book is going to take you on.

At it's heart, this is an inspiring tale of how the author's hard upbringing in the Glasgow Gorbals in the Depression years equipped him with the life skills and inner resilience to endure and survive his POW captivity. The turning point in his early life offered by a quite by chance opportunity to take up and excel in amateur athletics is one key to that tale, including his post war recovery from all the privations endured and the all too many horrors seen with his own eyes.

It's a tale told directly and well, with dark humour, reflection and key anecdotes that drive the story forward and draw you in. It's been a while since I found a "read" this hard to put down, though it's also fair to add it's not one for the faint-hearted - Coogan thankfully just tells it like it was, he doesn't do "sanitised".

Coogan is already in Malaya when Japan invades, so there is just one chapter of "military history" in its normal sense, as he sets his personal travails in the bigger picture of the chaotic fighting retreat down the Malay Peninsula and the final debacle at Singapore itself - including the initial massacre by the victors of up to 50,000 ethnic Chinese, often underplayed or air-brushed out altogether in many accounts.

That marks the real start of the POWs' living hell, a chilling record of some of militarised man`s worst inhumanity to man, woman and child. And an ever timely reminder that civilisation, like beauty, may be sometimes only skin deep ....
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PS The Hardback is not quite "large print" but close enough, for those of us whose reading vision nowadays is not quite all it once was !
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