Remarkable historical fiction of a family in a Japanese war camp from the perspective of a 10 year old boy
November 19, 2014
Of the books I've read from Sigmund Brouwer's pen, Thief of Glory is my favorite. In his signature storytelling style, this work of historical fiction is reminiscent of a memoir, shared like a series of journal entries written in the first person from the perspective of a 10-year-old boy; it is a completely fictional account of one family's nightmarish experience of interment in a Japanese concentration camp during World War II. Yet the details are hauntingly real.
Jeremiah lived with his parents and siblings on the island of Java. His father was the schoolmaster of the Dutch colonists. His income allowed them to live prosperously in their little village, with servants from the community. Jeremiah's blended family had two sets of siblings. There were three older half-brothers and his birth siblings--twin sisters and a little brother. Jeremiah was the eldest of his birth family. His lovely mother suffered from a mental illness where she frequently went into a dark phase of isolation. Often she was emotionally inaccessible. Jeremiah and his father were used to taking care of his family during these times. He took special care of his younger brother, Pietje (sounds like PJ). The little guy followed him around like a puppy.
The tragic portion of the story began when the Japanese arrived on the island. They removed the older boys and men, taking them to labor camps, some to work on the infamous Burma railroad. Jeremiah's father and brothers never returned. Before he left, he gave charge of his young family to Jeremiah's care. At this point, we are aware that the boy is a scrapper, a tough young man, and smart. He believes he is up for the challenge. It wasn't long after the men were taken when the Japanese came for the women and children. They were placed in "Jappencamps", where each family lived in a single room of a house. The bulk of this amazing story occurs in this place of captivity.
One element meaningful to me was the author's use of a few powerful metaphors. The banyan tree represents moments in time that leave an indelible impression for life. It also is used to represent the consequences of moments which pervades our lives to the end. The second metaphor was the impression left by reading Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe a number of times on Jeremiah. Jeremiah saw himself as Ivanhoe and Laura Jansen as Lady Rowena from the moment he laid eyes on her at the village's marble game. Consequently, when another boy named Georgie Smith vied for her attention, Jeremiah was ready to fight for her, even in the Jappencamp.
The second thing that struck me as an amazing factor in this story were the details of life in the camp. While these details are secondary to the plot, they lend an atmosphere of authenticity to the events that took place. In the preface, it's mentioned that these details came from the author's parents, especially his father who spent years in a similar situation as Jeremiah. Yet he survived and returned home to his loved ones, and in particular the author's mother. I think it's the stark realism of this tale which plucked at my heartstrings so much. Toward the end, I even forgot the story was supposed to be fiction.
The thing that surprised me most about this book was that reading this from a pre-teen's viewpoint meant that, like Tom sawyer and Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, there were the inevitable light moments and chuckles. Even in the midst of the horrendous circumstances he was in with his family, Jeremiah's antics and escapades were often funny, in a dark sort of "stick-to-you" type of way. Call it comic relief. I don't want to sound insensitive to the victims of such horrors, but the author managed to include many enjoyable instances as a sort of foil to the seriousness of the situation.
All of this meant I could hardly put the book down because of the suspense. It was all about surviving the war with his sanity and sense of self intact. Like me, you may be surprised how the book ends. I didn't see it coming at all. If you enjoy a fresh perspective of a historical fiction and/or love what Sigmund Brouwer writes, I can heartily recommend this book to you. For the rest of you, try something new; I think this book is worth it.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Waterbrook Press and the website, Blogging for Books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
Brouwer does it again. Though a fiction account we learn that the realistic story is built around actual experiecnes of his family. From page one your attention is held to the very end.The story is historical correct and deals with the atrocities experienced by a family that he careful traces through out their trials,imprisonment and deprivations . It is sometimes a hard read due to the realization that a great deal of what Brouwer weaves in his story actually happened in the lives of many during WW II. The end will totally surprise you and maybe even blow you away.
Not at all what I was expecting from a Christian novel
November 7, 2014
Thief of Glory by Sigmund Brouwer is historical fiction centered around WWII. The blurb talks about love amidst the internment camp, and it sounds like this really good story. But trust me, it's not... Buyer beware this shouldn't be considered a Christian book in any sense of the word. It's different but not in a good way.
When Jeremiah Prins is ten, the Japanese take over the Dutch East Indies. They force Jeremiah, his mother, and his three younger siblings into a camp where they have to learn how to survive with limited food and medicine. The Japanese control the camp with an iron grip leaving it's prisoners scared for their lives. But the Dutch don't give up easily....
Later Jeremiah finds his first love, Laura, in the camps. Life seems better with her as his friend and together they do daring things to help their families survive. Life takes a drastic turn when Jeremiah starts noticing something wrong with his mother.
This is my first read from this author, and I was impressed by his writing skill, but the story wasn't at all what I thought it was going to be. Usually you cheer with and like the main character, but I didn't like him at all. He was detached, mean, vindictive, and superior. I felt for all they went through at the Japanese internment camp, but for supposedly being a Christian story there was nothing Christian except for mentioning the Bible and hymns. Plus, there were a lot of thematic elements like some cursing, vulgarity, sensual topics, and violence especially at the beginning where it shocks you and makes you immediately dislike him.
I am used to reading WWII, nonfiction and fiction, so I know the evilness surrounding these places, but this story was just so dark with no redemptiveness to it at all. Even the ending was so strange and weird. The last chapters were poorly written, confusing, and made you dislike Jeremiah even more if possible. In my opinion, Jeremiah was just evil. They try to say he did it all for "good" reasons, but doing bad for a good end result is just as bad as doing wrong all the way. The story ends with him asking for mercy, but I would rather hear the author come right out and say he got saved. This book felt like such a waste. I will not be reading any of his books again.
I was given this book free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.
Jeremiah Prims' world was ordered and predictable until war came. His life in the Dutch East Indies was one of privilege until Japan invaded. When his father and older brothers were taken away, ten year old Jeremiah is left with the responsibility of caring for and protecting his mother, two younger sisters, and his little brother.
But the true test comes when the family is taken to one of the Jappenkamps... As they struggle to survive the harsh conditions of living in a concentration camp they manage to find some small joys and friendships to sustain and support them. But all too soon choices have to be made, choices that have consequences that must be lived with.
This is Jeremiah's story. A story of pain and suffering. A story of courage and fear. A story of survival. This story will move you to tears. And it is time for Jeremiah to share it and the horrifying truths that have shaped him into the man he has become. Take a look back as Jeremiah shares a childhood lost...
Thief of Glory looks at a period of history during World War II that many are unfamiliar with. This is history that was barely acknowledged much less taught in history class. I have to be honest I did a little internet research and was shocked at the number of Jappenkamps that were listed as having been in existence.
Humanity's lust for power and supremacy is not a virtue and is, in fact, often the catalyst for even greater evils against those who share this world. Some of the incidents in this book are disturbing and not appropriate for younger readers in my opinion.
I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review.
Thief of Glory, by Sigmund Brouwer, tells the story of a ten-year-old Dutch boy growing up in the Dutch East Indies during World War II. Brower vividly describes life in this part of the world through this novel, most of which is set in one of the Jappenkamps, where civilian women and children were held during the war.
Jeremiah Prins spent the first ten years of his life as the son of the school headmaster in the Dutch East Indies. But when the Japanese invade the Southeast Pacific in 1942, his life changes drastically. After watching his father and older brothers being taken away by the soldiers, he finds himself caring for his younger siblings and devastated mother. At the camp, he forms a strong friendship with Laura, and together they find creative ways to survive the starvation and sickness.
I found this book interesting. I did not know that the Japanese had this type of camp before I read this book. It began as the story of a happy, privileged boy. The remainder was filled with vivid descriptions of life in the camp and Jeremiahs fight to help his family and friends survive. I would recommend this book for older teens or adults with an interest in World War II events.
I received this book free from the publisher and was not required to write a positive review.