In the spirit of The Daughters Of Mars, Tom Keneally's new novel brilliantly explores the intimacies of ordinary lives being played out against momentous world events.
In Gawell, New South Wales, a prisoner-of-war camp to house European, Korean and Japanese captives is built close to a farming community. Alice is a young woman living a dull life with her father-in-law on his farm while her new husband first fights, then is taken prisoner, in Greece. When Giancarlo, an Italian POW and anarchist from Gawell's camp, is assigned to work on their farm, Alice's view of the world and her self-knowledge are dramatically expanded.
But what most challenges Alice and the town is the foreignness of the Japanese compound and its culture, entirely perplexing to the inmates' captors. Driven by a desperate need to validate the funerals already held for them in Japan, the prisoners vote to take part in an outbreak, and the bloodshed and chaos this precipitates shatter the certainties and safeties of all who inhabit the region.
Read John Purcell's Review
One of the drawbacks of living in a society obsessed with the new is that we fail to recognise the simple fact that many things get better with time. There is just no story in 'Author Gains Wisdom by Living a Long Interesting Life: Talking, Travelling, Reading and Writing'. But there should be. Someone gaining wisdom should be news. It so seldom happens.
Tom Keneally should be news. His last two books are a direct challenge to the more newsworthy overnight success authors. Both are the result of fifty years of writing both fiction and non-fiction. And it shows. Both Daughters of Mars and his latest novel Shame and the Captives give younger writers a lesson in writing.
At its most basic, Shame and the Captives is a retelling of the Cowra breakout. Something which was long overdue. But it is much more than that. Keneally cleverly (and effortlessly) divides his story into many sub stories and embeds his reader into each one. We mingle with Japanese POWs, hear their stories, feel their shame and share their frustrations; we are sent out to the farms as labourers with the Italian POWs; we wait out the war far from the frontlines with the British and Australian camp guards and officers; we share in the guilt and confusion of a woman who's trying to remember her captured husband's face whilst an attractive Italian POW labours away for her father-in-law in the sun outside her window.
All the while trouble brews. We know the story of the Cowra breakout. We have never had it told like this.
About the Author
Thomas Keneally won the Booker Prize in 1982 with Schindler's Ark, later made into the Academy Award-winning film Schindler's List by Steven Spielberg. His non-fiction includes the memoir Searching For Schindler and Three Famines, an LA Times Book of the Year, and the histories The Commonwealth Of Thieves, The Great Shame and American Scoundrel. His fiction includes The Daughters Of Mars, The Widow And Her Hero (shortlisted for the Prime Minister's Literary Award), An Angel In Australia and Bettany's Book. His novels The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith, Gossip from the Forest, and Confederates were all shortlisted for the Booker Prize, while Bring Larks and Heroes and Three Cheers For The Paraclete won the Miles Franklin Award. The People's Train was longlisted for the Miles Franklin Award and shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize, South East Asia division.
Published: 1st November 2013
Publisher: Random House Australia
Dimensions (cm): 23.1 x 15.5 x 3.2
Weight (kg): 0.53