Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Transported to another world - Book Review

A colleague brought this book in for me to borrow. She was fully aware of my ridiculous habit (This ended up being my 29th book of the year and I'm not around 34 or 35) and wanted to feed it.

I'm not always up for recommendations as some people tend to recommend books indiscriminately. I try my best to find out what genre someone likes before going on and on about a book which may  simply not of interest to someone. I do, however, talk about what I read quite a lot. And it's paid off as my colleague got it right - 100%!

This book is prose that reads like poetry. Within moments I was transported to Malay. I could feel the humidity, smell the tea bushes as they were being harvests and feel the coolness of the mist descending from the mountains.

It was also incredibly eye opening for me. Primarily set in Malay just following the end of World War II, this is the story of part of the world I honestly don't think I've ever had any historical reference for from the 1950s. I didn't really grasp the absolute brutality of the Japanese military and the fallout once the war had ended - which led to the country being what we now know as Malaysia.

Whilst my formal education was pretty damn good I'm still stunned at the gaps in my awareness of what happened in the world east of Europe. The stunningly described imagery in this book contrasted intensely with the pain and suffering of so many people at a time when the entire world was being torn apart by war.

I found myself reflecting on my visit to Hiroshima last year. While in Japan I went to the Peace Garden built around what was ground zero for the atomic bomb. I'd always been taught about it in such a way that the Americans were painted as these brutish bullies whilst the Japanese were poor innocents caught in an excessive retaliation.

While at Hiroshima I really appreciated that war is war is war and no one is excused or excusable for their behaviour. There is equal blame on all sides involved because we've decided to take sides and draw lines on a map on a globe where we all have to live together. The whole idea of countries is arbitrary and a bit ridiculous when Earth is viewed from space. To think that we can justify killing each other because someone crossed an imaginary line or wanted their imaginary line to go out further seems not only childish but like the definition of insanity.

Reading this book really reinforced the fact that there are no winners in something as brutal and mindless as war but it also was a reminder of how important it is to forgive, to grieve, and to appreciate what life offers.

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