Shame and the Captives
By Thomas Keneally
A dramatic and fascinating novel based on a notorious breakout by Japanese prisoners from an Australian POW camp in 1944, encapsulating the impact of war on ordinary lives.
On the edge of a small Australian town, far from the battlefields of the Second World War, a camp holds thousands of Japanese, Italian and Korean prisoners of war. The locals are unsure how to treat the 'enemy', though Alice Herman, whose young husband is himself a prisoner in Europe, becomes drawn to the Italian soldier sent to work on her father-in-law's farm. The camp commander and his deputy, each concealing a troubled private life, are disunited. And both fatally misread their Japanese captives, who burn with shame at being taken alive. The stage is set for a clash of cultures that has explosive, far-reaching consequences.
Thomas Keneally began his writing career in 1964 and has published twenty-nine novels since. They include Schindler's Ark, which won the Booker Prize in 1982 and was subsequently made into the film Schindler's List, and The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, Confederates and Gossip from the Forest, each of which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. His most recent novels are The Widow and her Hero, The People's Train and The Daughters of Mars, which was shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize in 2013. He has also written several works of non-fiction, including his memoir Homebush Boy, Searching for Schindler and Australians. He is married with two daughters and lives in Sydney.
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- Publication date:
12 Feb 2015
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Keneally skilfully weighs broad cultural questions against the concerns of the soldiers and community . . . In a supremely dramatic ending, it is impossible to guess the fate of any of the characters. — Mail on Sunday
His writing is remarkably evocative, whether he is describing everyday occurrences or characters . . . we gain an insight into the minds of the Japanese so even if we don't empathise with their desire for a glorious death, we can comprehend it. — Independent on Sunday
A story very suited to Keneally's talent for letting his imagination play on real-life events. The narrative is gripping, slow-moving but absorbing for the first half and more of the novel, then fast-moving, exciting and appalling. — Scotsman
Keneally's fine novel gives us insight into how, over time (as in Australia itself), imprisonment, even brutal imprisonment, can evolve into something worthy of the human race. — The Times
Readers wondering whether there is anything new to be said about the world wars of the twentieth century can pick up one of Keneally's books for a renewed sense of how it felt to live through those terrifying times . . . [he] makes the reader sympathise with the mindset of the prisoners, having rooted out yet another unfamiliar and powerful example of the madness of war. — Sunday Express
Shame and the Captives suggests that Keneally's late period is as rich as any other in his fifty-year career . . . Keneally's elegant classicism miniaturises grand narratives - here the war in the Pacific - without sacrificing subtlety . . . Shame and the Captives is sobering, horrifying, humane and even strangely uplifting. — Literary Review
A tremendously accomplished novel, rich in character, detail and incident. It is the work of a master novelist — Sunday Business Post, Ireland
As he states in his introduction: "Fiction has always tried to tell the truth by telling lies." On the evidence of this book, and at seventy-eight years of age, Keneally remains one of the most compelling liars on the planet. — Guardian