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Bamboo Island (Bamboo Trilogy) Paperback – 28 Mar 2016

4.9 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Monsoon Books (28 Mar. 2016)
  • ISBN-10: 9814625175
  • ISBN-13: 978-9814625173
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.6 x 20 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 551,666 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

About the Author

Ann Bennett was born in a small village in Northamptonshire, UK. She read Law at Cambridge and qualified and practised 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 a Southeast Asian WWII trilogy came from researching his wartime experiences. The research took her back to Asia, a place she loves and has returned to many times. She lives in Surrey with her husband and three sons and works in London as a lawyer. Sales Handles: Sequel to Bamboo Heart (9789814423731), WINNER Best Fiction published in Asia, 2015, Asian Books Blog (Singapore). UK public relations agency handling publicity for this title.


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Hello everyone and welcome to the second of three very special days on my blog to celebrate the Bamboo Trilogy by Ann Bennett. To see my review of the first book in the series, Bamboo Heart, please click HERE. This post today will focus on the second novel, Bamboo Island which involves different characters than the first book but is set in the same time frame, in Southeast Asia during the Second World War. It means each book can be read as a stand alone but we do get certain events being referred to in the second and third book.

I really enjoyed the first book in the series but I was especially delighted to discover that I enjoyed Bamboo Island even more! It follows a British woman called Juliet Crosby who has lived with her husband, Gavin on a rubber plantation but their marriage is fraught with difficulties. Her only confidant is her sister Rose who is married herself and lives in Singapore so visiting and speaking with each other is a rare occurrence. There are a number of different time frames to this story (which was part of why I loved it most) and we switch between them seamlessly.

There is pre-war, naive Juliet and her struggles with her distant husband and distant sister (both distant for VERY different reasons, mind you!). Then there is Juliet during the war with full and heart-breaking description of her struggles and her internment at a horrific prison camp but also the friendships and bonds she makes along the way. Finally, there is post war Juliet living back on the rubber plantation and waiting for someone. The person who turns up is definitely not whom she is expecting, a young girl called Mary, claiming to have crucial information about Juliet's family and the loss of those that she had been close to.
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I found myself particularly drawn to Bamboo Island, because it described the period of history, during the second world war, when all society in Singapore and Malaya was turned completely upside down in a tragic, life-changing manner. The book moves between the late 1930s/ early 1940s when Juliet and Rose arrived in Penang to stay with their aunt and uncle and the early 1960s when Mary, a young nurse, arrives at the remote rubber plantation which Juliet is running in northern Malaysia.
The events leading up to and during the war, are described in the first person by Juliet, so that we experience her sadness and horror at events beyond her control, while the story of Mary and Juliet in the 1960s is in the third person, enabling Juliet to keep her secrets and maintain a distance from her companion. This is a story of love, passion and cruelty in an outdated society but it is also the story of major conflict and dreadful acts which we should never forget.
The detailed account of Juliet's survival in occupied Singapore is fascinating, as it reflects the experiences of all the races who lived on the island more than any other book I have read about the conflict. The travels in 1960s Indonesia are both interesting in showing a simple unspoilt society and in describing how they dealt with invasion 20 years earlier.
This was a story I could not put down, as I needed to discover Juliet's secrets and what had happened to the other characters in the book and now I will turn to Bamboo Heart, the first book in the series.
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I have read both books by this author in the 'Bamboo' trilogy, and once again Ann Bennett has created a wonderfully moving story from WW2 in the Far East. I loved her first novel 'Bamboo Heart' , but found this one even better. I am looking forward to reading the last in the series, even though we have to wait until 2017 for publication !! Many thanks to the author for such an amazing book.
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Although biased as Ann is an old School friend, I can still thoroughly recommend her books. I even asked another friend to read Bamboo Heart for her book club and she has informed me that they all loved it and went out and bought Bamboo Island. I have not been able to put it down. Her descriptions are excellent and you really feel you are there. I was always jealous of her writing abilities at 13 so am very pleased she has made use of them.
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I absolutely loved Bamboo Heart so was looking forward to reading Bamboo Island. The story jumps between different periods as in the first book, which initially I found a little confusing, but I soon became absorbed by the story and found it difficult to put down. The characters, scenery and buildings are so well described that I could see them and almost feel the atmosphere so I thoroughly enjoyed the book. I look forward to the next one!
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