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on 5 May 2017
I consider the book very well written and detailed.
The latter part of the book I consider to lack some detail, other than that it is a moving book.
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on 5 September 2014
This book was for my husband, and he says it is riveting, he finds it difficult to put down, so according to him a great story.
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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 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 20 April 2017
this is an amazing story, it made me laugh and cry, what these peolpe went through is hard to comprehend. Its simply amazing they survived but thankfully they did so we know the truth. I am left in awe of men like Andy thank you.
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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 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 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 23 August 2012
This really is one of the most powerful books I've read in a long time. The stories range from funny to heartbreaking but they all have a wonderful and inspirational man at their centre. I agree with the previous review that the cover is a little too 'Band of Brothers' but don't let that put you off, you'd miss out on some brilliant stories from one of our most gifted athletes who will fill your heart with cheer and remind to you keep your loved ones close and ensure that some of his experiences never happen again.
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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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