Inspired by true events, Hazel Gaynor’s The Bird in the Bamboo Cage tells of a group of teachers and children interned by the Japanese during the Second World War. At the heart of the story are teacher Elspeth Kent and ten-year-old pupil Nancy, from whose dual perspectives we witness events.

In 1941, the Japanese declare war on the Allies following the attack on Pearl Harbor. They take over a mission school in Chefoo, northern China, where the students are mainly the children of missionaries and ex-pats. As the group try to adapt to the brutalities of being prisoners of war, matters become more bleak for them when they are moved to Weihsein internment camp, where conditions are harsh. Their strong ties to each other, love, bravery and loyalty sustain them, helping them to endure the deprivations and cruelty of daily life in a Japanese prison camp.

Gaynor skilfully weaves her story, creating several empathetic characters and evoking the realities and horror of war in well-penned prose. And if you’re fans of historical fiction, as we are, this book is definitely one not to be missed. Recommended.


 The Bird in the Bamboo Cage | hb| £12.99| 20 August 2020 | HarperCollins

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Acknowledgements: This review is published as part of the book tour organised by Random Things Tours. Many thanks to Anne Cater for the invitation. Thanks to the publisher for supplying a digital proof. All opinions are our own. All rights reserved. Please check out the other reviews on this tour.

See also:CWA’s Vintage Crime’; ‘Amanda Craig’s homage to Highsmith‘; ‘Chris Whitaker’s small-town America’; ‘Nora Roberts’ Sanctuary: an Old Familiar’; Carver’s Nothing Important Happened Today’; By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept’; ‘Yvonne Battle-Fenton’s Remembered‘; ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised‘; ‘We should all be feminists‘; The not-so-invisible woman: 150 greats in their own words’; ‘How Penguin learned to fly – Allen Lane and the Original “Penguin Ten”‘; Dorothy L. Sayer’s Busman’s Holiday – Romek Marber for Penguin Crime (book covers we love).

Also of interest: Night Mail (1936), changing the face of British film; A Colour Box by Len Lye (1935); Hitchcock (2012); The Splendour of George Stevens’ Giant (1956). Hitchcock (2012).

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