Shame and the Captives

Shame and the Captives

by Thomas Keneally

Overview: Based on true events, this beautifully rendered novel from the author of Schindler’s List and The Daughters of Mars brilliantly explores a World War II prison camp, where Japanese prisoners resolve to take drastic action to wipe away their shame. Alice is a young woman living on her father-in-law’s farm on the edge of an Australian country town, while her husband is held prisoner in Europe. When Giancarlo, an Italian anarchist at the prisoner-of-war camp down the road, is assigned to work on the farm, she hopes that being kind to him will somehow influence her husband’s treatment. What she doesn’t anticipate is how dramatically Giancarlo will expand her outlook and self-knowledge.

But what most challenges Alice and her fellow townspeople is the utter foreignness of the thousand-plus Japanese inmates and their culture, which the camp commanders fatally misread. Mortified by being taken alive in battle and preferring a violent death to the shame of living, they plan an outbreak, to shattering and far-reaching effects on all the citizens around them.

In a career spanning half a century, Thomas Keneally has proved a master at exploring ordinary lives caught up in extraordinary events. With this profoundly gripping and thought-provoking novel, inspired by a notorious incident in New South Wales in 1944, he once again shows why he is celebrated as a writer who “looks into the heart of the human condition with a piercing intelligence that few can match” (Sunday Telegraph).

Faith Bowers (03/13/15): I thought this book was a good read as it is historical fiction but with a misplaced sense of integrity between cultures during WWII. That being said, there is a lot to think about as we are blending our societies today because of the ease of international travel, communication, business and government.

The Italian and Japanese POWs were at a huge camp in the farm country of Northern Australia. The English and Australians were running it based on the Geneva convention. The Japanese inmates were suppose to die for their country. Staying alive and being treated well was challenging for many and especially the leaders of the inmates. The Italians depicted by one character who gets a workplace on one of the ranches. The foreshadowing of a violent clash between the cultures was well done with detailed description of the warfare. The character development made for a well done novel.
Rating: ****

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