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4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 22 August 2012
If ever there was a story that demonstrated the genorosity of the human spirit then it is within this book. The story is heartwarming as Mr. Coogan tells the story of his formative years and in particular how his passion for running would literally save his life when he was a prisoner of war in Japan during the Second World war.
His experience of being held captive in Japan is truly horrific yet he appears to emerge from this without bitterness. At times it is difficult for the reader to contemplate the extent of the torture he experienced at such a young age.
This book is timely in view of the recent success of the London Olympics and it amplifies that in order to survive and succeed in life a person needs to have self belief,a sense of humour, hardwork, the love of a family and a love of life.
It is unfortunate that the book is promoted primarily as a military book as I feel that it is an uplifting story that needs to be conveyed to people of all ages so no one forgets the remarkable bravery of people like Mr. Coogan.
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on 29 August 2012
This is a great read and an amazing story. Andy Coogan was plucked from civilian life where he was a gifted runner and worked as a painter in Glasgow and plunged into the maelstrom of the Second World War. He was unlucky enough to be sent to Malaya and fought in the shambolic retreat down the Malayan peninsula. After terrifying hand-to-hand fighting he walked the last 70 miles to reach the 'safety' of Singapore.

After his capture in Singapore he enters the deoths of hell in a copper mine that sounds like Dante's inferno. This is an inspiring survival story and I agree with previous reviewers about its "unputdownability". It rattles along and just when you think things can't get any worse --- they do.

It puts our every day moans and worries into perspective. What a man, what a generation.
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on 27 August 2012
"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 ....

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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on 17 September 2012
I've known Andy for many years and had listened to many of his interesting stories previously, however the book portrays more vividly the brutality and suffering he endured at the hands of the Japanese guards. I've also visited the Thai-Burma death railway and had felt nothing could really compare with that, but the account of Andy's time at the Kinkasaki copper mine in Taiwan illustrates it was just as bad and he was lucky to survive.

I was concerned, with the sensational material involved and the involvement of a professional writer, that the book might be a bit hyped up and not fairly portray Andy's real reflections, but having read the book I recognise a lot of the memories and think Andy's life and essence as a person has been portrayed well - the humour and positive outlook, as well as the hard-times as a POW. There are a lot of interesting historical facts throughout the book that help illustrate the period and conditions that Andy lived in at the time.

A great read - highly recommended!
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on 28 August 2012

This is a brilliant book a real page-turner that I just could not put down. I read it in two days it is so well written. Somebody should make this in to film. How any of these men survived is beyond me.

Andy Coogan's story is worth reading for its vivid details on life in Glasgow's tough slums during the depression alone -- never mind the terrifying fighting in Malaya and the years of torture, slavery and starvation and misery as a prisoner of the Japanese.

A truly inspirational read. I salute you Mr Coogan -- a remarkable man in his 95th year.
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on 22 January 2015
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, if that's the right terminology for a book with such brutality. Because of the Unbroken Hollywood film with a similar subject I fear this book may not be read by as many people as should. I enjoyed reading of his growing up in some of the roughest areas of pre war Glasgow, the ducking and diving to survive.
The debacle of British troops and their strategy in Asia is highlighted, one of Britain's finest hours it certainly isn't. As a consequence Andy and many more like him were captured by the Japanese Imperial Army and treated to years of humiliation, cruelty and barbaric actions.
As the POW's are freed you want to whoop with joy but even then there is a twist. Treated tremendously well by the USA and Canadian forces only to be welcomed home by a sullen military.
Andy was a gifted athlete and post war he channelled some of his energy into bringing athletics to a new generation.
Read it and join me in thanking Andy Coogan for showing the extremes of human behaviour.
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on 11 September 2012
An incredible tale about a man who should be a nationally know hero. The things he went through are horrendous and shocking you can't help but feel a fraction his pain. You will read things you couldn't imagine that will bring you to tears. An absolute must read.
Everyone should know Andy's story
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on 9 November 2013
I liked the book but felt that the title is not an accurate depiction of it (hence the 3 stars rather than 4). This is more a biography of Andy Coogan rather than a book which centres on the Japanese war camps. Much of the book concentrates on Andy's life before the war whilst his war experience is really secondary to the story of the man himself. Don't get me wrong, its still fascinating to read about an ordinary hero but I think it may not be for those who thought the book centred on the man's experience of Japanese concentration Camps.
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on 9 July 2013
Mr Coogan's very personal story of his early life and his 'holiday in Japan' (his words!) is probably one of the best narratives of what it was to be in Malaya as a conscript at the outbreak of the war in the Far East and the hell suffered as a FEPOW.

The reader will shake his/her head at the arrogance of the Britons in India and Malaya, but that story is nothing to the emotions the reader will feel at the treatment of FEPOWs at the hands of the Imperial Japanese Army. What is astonishing is the lack of anger or even bitterness shown by these guys on their release.

Mr Coogan and his comrades were truly heroic.
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on 17 December 2012
An excellent book from a man who has experienced more in a few years than most people experience in a lifetime.

The stories of his youth are a fascinating insight into life in early 20th century Glasgow and his experiences of WW2 are harrowing in the savagery he encountered and heartwarming in the camaraderie he participated in.

'Lest we forget' might be an appropriate sub text to this most excellent book.
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