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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 12 March 2011
There are so few stories out there that look at the WW2 conflict in SE Asia from a women's point of view. This one does not disappoint with a few caveats.

The prologue is written in first person. I had to keep checking the back cover as it seemed so real that I thought Margaret Mayhew was writing an autobiography. It had me fooled, so that can't be a bad thing.

The first Part of the novel, and the one that interested me most, was written in third person and is thoroughly fascinating. The author must have done a tremendous amount of research to write so convincingly.

Part Two is a bit disappointing. Most of the information is just rehashed from Margot Turner's recollections, and some of the characters are straight out of the TV series Tenko, which was based on Margot's biography. In fact, I even found myself using some of their exact voices as I read the text. The other disappointing thing is that it is a little rushed. It is a much smaller section than the first part. All I can say in Margaret's favour is that there is not a lot of information available to write a book like this, and it is better to write less, than make it up and get it wrong. The men's camps have been written about more often.

Part Three is again quite a small section, but that is all it needs to be. Repatriation with real life again, and here is where the love story kicks in, with a nice happy ending. It is all a little too convenient, but perhaps that is what a love story book should be like.

I have never read any other Margaret Mayhew books, and my interest came from wondering what life was like in Singapore before the War. I think the book satisfied my curiosity somewhat. A good solid read.
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on 21 February 2013
I absolutely loved this book. The first part is set in colonial Singapore before the Japanese invasion and I was transported to another world and time by the author. The second part deals with life in the POW camps so be prepared for some disturbing paragraphs. Lastly, the heroine and an old flame are reunited both being much wiser than before the camps. The author draws attention to all sides of human nature and I couldn't put it down.
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on 24 February 2013
This was again another situation where an English girl, albeit born and bred
in Singapore, was caught up in the Japanese war.
The sharp contrasts between the idyllic world of life enjoyed by the elite of
peaceful Singapore and the horrors and brutality that had to be endured
adter the Jananese invasion are very sensitively told,
The story is harrowing but beautifully told.
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on 22 October 2016
I love discovering books about the WWII in Asia, especially about the area occupied by Japanese.
This one starts with a very detailed description of life before and at the beginning of WWII in Singapore. The time of parties, lunches, the ladies afternoon teas, the dresses, all that thinking what to wear and when. The wonderful life of privileged in absolute denial of what is coming despite of many warnings. And then their world collapses. The life changes forever.
This is the life of very young girl Stella. I loved the contrast between the first part of her prewar life and the second part when she became the prisoner in a Japanese camp. It is gripping and hear breaking. I would expect Stella’s camp life to be presented in more details. However, I understand that there is so much literature about that, that maybe it was not necessary from the point of the author.
One more very well written novel about WWII era. It is the first book by Margaret Mayhew I have read. And I will reach to other titles very soon.
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on 16 December 2011
Margaret Mayhew's research into the setting and context of the Japanese invasion of Singapore is very good - her local knowledge of British colonial society; their complacency and disdain of the Japanese as a military threat and the portrayal of their life style - servants/clubs/Raffles/cricket on the padang/ stengahs/kebuns/ mems, tuans - convincing. The book, however, reminded me very much of Neville Shute's "A Town Like Alice" - similar settings (of course!) with similar story lines - the heroine approaching the headman in the kampong asking permission to stay after surviving a sinking near Sumatra (cp. with Jean, in "A Town Like Alice" approaching her headman in the kampong in Trengganu); the torture of the hero by the Japanese and his surprise survival (Joe in a "A Town Like Alice" beaten by the Japanese in Kuantan and Mayhew's hero Ray, beaten and surviving the Sandakan Death March) - in both cases the heroes feared dead, only to be found alive at the end of the book. As an Australian, I found the Aussie dialogue trite and very cliched, even allowing for historical licence of Mayhew trying to capture the idiom of the time. Like Shute, Mayhew too overuses the phrase "Oh my word!" and there were even a few "crikeys" in there. Of course, there are the usual digs at the unattractive Australian accent - nasal and grating which all English writers indulge in as they compare it with an Oxbridge accent rather than an incomprehensible Yorkshire/Cockney or Somerset accent for example (ho hum!!)

Mayhew certainly succeeds in creating an exciting atmosphere of the impending disaster about to hit Singapore. Her descriptions of life as internees of the Japanese are graphic and convincing. The book was hard to put down, but I kept waiting for "the love story" to develop - for me, there was no chemistry whatsoever between the hero and the heroine, and the ending was very abrupt and unconvincing (especially when compared with Jean and Joe in "A Town Like Alice") I found the book very contrived; the story was almost incidental to the author's desire to evoke authenticity. If you are interested in the fall of Singapore, this is a worthwhile read. If you are interested in a love story, don't bother! A couple of nit-picking facts about Australia at the time: first, Australia would NEVER have permitted a cat from Singapore to enter the country without a year's quarantine (no rabies in Australia, so need to safeguard against any alien kitties coming in) and secondly, the heroine speeds across the outback (?) in Australia's own car, a Holden, presumably in 1945/46. The first Holden didn't roll off the production line until 1949, so she was probably in a Ford.
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on 13 April 2015
Not a bad read....My Mum recommended the author and I decided to give this one ago.
The first few chapters felt a bit slow, but once the story moved on (to the captivity) it made sense as it showed the difference in the main character and how she grew up and faced the situation she finds herself in.
The descriptions of the houses and towns are really good and I found myself being able to picture what she was describing.
The chapters on the captivity focus on the health and diseases that affected the women, and does breeze very quickly through the 3 year captivity but I guess the nature of the book is more romance than focusing on the horror of the treatment. It sparked my interest in this period of history and I am now also reading a true account of life in Japanese captivity (which is much more graphic and a harder read).
Happy ending for the main character was also a bonus and I will be leaving this on my Kindle to read again at some point.
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on 28 July 2016
Absolutely enjoyed reading this book. My brother was stationed in Malaya whilst doing his National service. The description of the country and the expected invasion of the Japanese after Pearl Harbour was exceptional. I felt like I was living it! A very interesting and emotional read at times the scene was set in a Malaya where the English had great privilege. Happy go lucky, parties, swimming. Thinking that the enemy couldn't invade. But how wrong once they did everything changed for the worst and life would never be the same again!
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on 12 September 2010
I bought this book for my husband, he has just started reading Margaret Mayhews books. He said it is a well written & thought provoking book. Everything she wrote, did actually happen When the Japenese took occupation of Singapore & its a real eye opener to the horrors of war. He carnnot really tell me much more as I havent read it yet!! Looking forward to it though as one of her other novels (The Little Ship) was an excellent read, had a good twist at the end too.
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on 4 April 2013
I just couldn't put this book down. I hadn't realised how terrible the war had been for Singapore and how cruel the Japanese had been. The story built up right from the beginning to when the Japs invaded - a real nail biter for me.
I have bought a copy for a friend and I know she will enjoy it just as much as me.
Thanks
S.Jones
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on 26 December 2013
This book shows how the people in Singapore at the beginning of WW!! were let down by the British Government and the consequences of that. The lives of both the cloistered British and the local population changed forever. Margaret Mayhew obviously knows and loves this part of the world.
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