Bamboo Heart (Bamboo Trilogy 1) Paperback – 7 Nov 2014
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About the Author
Ann Bennett (London, UK) read Law at Cambridge and qualified and practiced as a solicitor. During a career break, to have children, she started to write. Her father had been a prisoner of war on the Thailand-Burma Railway and the idea for Bamboo Heart came from researching his wartime experiences. The research took her to Southeast Asia, a place she loves and has returned to many times. She lives in the UK with her husband and three sons and works in London as a lawyer.
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The book moves on to London in 1986 where Laura Ellis, Tom’s daughter returns from Paris to see her father, who is sick. A successful city lawyer, she is dissatisfied with her life and worried about the actions of her boyfriend, Luke. Finding a photo of a young woman with oriental features, named Joy de Souza, Laura decides to travel to Thailand to learn more about her father’s wartime experiences and then on to Penang where he may have met Joy.
The book takes us back to pre-war London where Tom, also unhappy with his life, had decided to travel out east to manage workers on a rubber plantation. He becomes part of the expat community, but he also meets a local teacher who becomes very important to him. His easy-going life is suddenly changed by the approach of the Japanese, when he must become a soldier, but he becomes a captive in Singapore and is taken to the Death Railway.
The book reveals the suffering of so many soldiers and the repercussions in their lives post war. Laura’s experiences in Thailand and Penang are also life-changing but in a positive way. This is a challenging but fascinating story of the tragedy of war but hope for the future.
The narrative builds cleverly, switching abruptly from one period to the other. This allows for dramatic descriptions, especially of Tom's horrific period at war. There are cliff-hangers and unexpected revelations in the lives of each character. I had wondered if the drama would flag after Tom returns to London but the plotting has been so cleverly constructed that we are kept guessing about both characters until the last page.