Shame and the Captives: A Novel
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“If the legendary Schindler’s List was not enough to showcase Thomas Keneally’s literary mastery, then [this novel] surely will” (New York Daily News) as the Booker Prize-winning author reimagines from all sides the drastic true events of the night more than one thousand Japanese POWs staged the largest and bloodiest prison escape of World War II.
Alice is 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 inmate 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 change the way she understands both herself and the wider world.
What most challenges Alice and her fellow townspeople is the utter foreignness of the thousand-plus Japanese inmates and their deeply held code of honor, which the camp commanders fatally misread. Mortified by being taken alive in battle and preferring a violent death to the shame of living, the Japanese prisoners plan an outbreak with shattering and far-reaching consequences for all the citizens around them.
In a career spanning half a century, Thomas Keneally has proven brilliant 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).
seemed to Alice to be ripe for intrusion by someone active and purposeful. Could it be her? But it was more appropriate and obvious that she ought to stand up with her sewing and back away towards the door into deeper shade, as if with the intention of going into the kitchen. To hide was as natural as to gawp. Those gentlemen over there, or their compatriots, were the violators of Chinese women and impalers of children in Nanking. She had seen it all in newspaper photographs, hard to look at but
boiling times to a nicety, she went out again to check on these unknown quantities and see if they were still there. A westerly had begun to blow and she knew that if she stepped off the veranda the sun would descend on her like a doubled-up form of gravity. The wind nudged her cheek and brought her a conviction again that in some ways she could not explain. It was definitely more than a desire to see something novel and unsteadying up close, though it was that as well. But it was also that
and entering the shadow of the vestibule. She passed the marble font full of water in which people dipped their hands before making their sign, and saw the racks of pamphlets—“The Plain Truth”; “Catholicism—the True Faith?”; “The Papacy and the Faithful”; “The Blessed Virgin and the True Faith”—and advanced into the sinister smell of incense, like the reek of paganism itself, that reached even to the backseat, where a number of thick-necked farmers knelt on one knee. Across from them, on the
compared to the imperative that men have time that evening to bathe for death and prepare themselves in ways of their choosing. And so with a few further informal motions and ad hoc amendments, they were the parliament of death, even if their arguments seemed so full of the impulse of life and sagacity and compassion. Not all were vocal on these matters, and—Aoki sensed—there was still some scepticism that the ragtag garrison would oblige them; that it would get around to manning the machine
town. “The liking mightn’t last if I settled in,” he told the solicitor. “Anyhow, sometimes it seems the end might be a long way off, doesn’t it?” “We’ve got them both beaten,” Galloway assured him. “Japan and Germany. Just that they won’t lie down and admit it.” Sometimes Abercare considered what might happen when Malaya was invaded—Japan, for that matter. Would his prisoners abound, thousands upon thousands? The women were still conversing very easily, he noticed with relief. In fact, it