Under the Java Moon
A Novel of World War II
by Heather B. Moore
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Pub Date 05 Sep 2023 | Archive Date 19 Sep 2023
Shadow Mountain Publishing, Shadow Mountain
Java Island, 1941
Six-year-old Rita Vischer cowers in her family’s dug-out bomb shelter, listening to the sirens and waiting for a bomb to fall. Her charmed life on Java—living with other Dutch families—had always been peaceful, but when Holland declares war on Japan and the Japanese army invades Indonesia, Rita’s family is forced to relocate to a POW camp, and Rita must help care for her little brother, Georgie.
Mary Vischer is three months pregnant when she enters the Tjideng women’s camp with thousands of other women and children. Her husband, George, is somewhere on the Java Sea with the Dutch Navy, so she must care alone for her young children, Rita and Georgie, and her frail mother-in-law. The brutal conditions of the overcrowded camp make starvation, malaria, and dysentery a grim reality. Mary must do everything she can to keep her family alive.
George Vischer survives the bombing of his minesweeper but feels little hope floating on a small dinghy in the Java Sea. Reaching the northern tip of the Thousand Islands would be a miracle. Focusing on of the love of his life, Mary, and his two children, he battles against the sea and merciless sun. He’ll do whatever it takes to close the divide between him and his family, even if it means risking being captured by the Japanese.
Under the Java Moon highlights a little-known part of WWII history and the impact of war on Indonesia, its people, and the more than 100,000 Dutch men, women, and children who were funneled into prison camps and faced with the ultimate fight for survival.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 93 members
This was stunning. The plot was well-paced and captivating from start to finish. The characters were well-developed; complex, and intriguing. I highly recommend this beautiful telling of the power of love. Many thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for the advanced copy of the book.
Thank you, Heather. Thank you for highlighting a part of history that is getting neglected till now. Thank you for highlighting the impact on Indonesia. I am from India and the World War had a deep impact on India and our freedom struggle, yet no one knows about it. I am so happy to see that another country of Asia having a story of the war is being represented. Hope to see India being represented in the future.
But coming back to the book, I just want to add that the angles used in the book is incredible. The characters, the writing, the worldbuilding, all are pinpoint. All in all, this is a masterpiece.
A story of holding on to hope through hardships
Just a note that much of the book describes suffering at the hands of commanders of a prison camp, and many die from the lack of food and medical treatment. A “true” story of the struggles and triumphs of the Dutch in the Dutch East Indies as Japan invades and rules during WWII. The events in the story are taken from multiple people’s experiences and portrayed as those of the characters in the book. The Netherlands had ruled that part of Indonesia from 1800 until the beginning of the story in WWII. The women and children are kept in separate camps from the men with the women and children going through hardships and mistreatment, especially by one of the commanders of the camp (who is later tried and convicted of war crimes). The only thing that gets them though the three and a half years, is the hope that they can be together as a family, when the war ends. The men have had similar hardships but the commanders of their camp are not nearly as hard on the prisoners. Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the copy. This is my review and all thoughts are my own.
My father flew bomber planes in WWII so this period of time is fascinating to me. I’ve read so many historical fiction books from this era, but this was the first time I’d read about the impact of war on Indonesia and the plight of the Dutch. It was heartbreaking to read of the separation of families and the hardships they faced in the prison camps, but I was grateful to learn more about this period in history and came away uplifted at the goodness, hope, and resilience of the Vischer family. Thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for the advanced copy of the book.
Living In New Zealand, I've spent time travelling in close-by Southeast Asia, and have witnessed the influences of the British, Spanish, French, Dutch and Portugese through enduring architecture and food. So it was fascinating to dig deeper into the Dutch East Indies time in the region.
WOW Heather, you seem to have a knack of discovering or attracting personal accounts of a historical fiction nature to re-tell/expand on, taking us on a historically accurate and deeply personal journey of the time.
While I had read a few southeast Asia prison camp books, they were focussed on British internees, so I took the time before reading "Under the Java Sun" to explore the history of the Dutch, who were present in Indonesia centuries before WWII. Ultimately this ended in the chain of events that started with more than 100,000 Dutch men, women, and children interned in Japanese prison camps, then once WWII ended, the ultimate termination of Dutch influence in Indonesia, as "the locals" fought for (and gained) independence.
"Under the Java Sun" had me rapt, following the Vischer family and their friends. The enduring power of love within a family shines through as the family are separated ....both stories of Mary and George equally gripping.
Surviving on the hope of being reunited, the help of friends and an attitude of submitting to the whims of the vicious Japanese.....all to reach the long-term goal of liberation.
I loved this book by Heather B. Moore, such amazing characters and storyline!
I just reviewed Under the Java Moon by Heather B. Moore. #UndertheJavaMoon #NetGalley
I was very excited to be given an advanced copy for this book!
I really liked it.
I'm big fan of historical fiction and this did not disappoint.
I had no idea what happened on Java (or where it was honestly) or three horrors that the Dutch faced.
This book told the story in a week written and engaging way.
Definitely be warned that there are very hard parts to read.
If you like historical fiction, I would definitely recommend this one to you.
I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.
I knew nothing about the Java islands or the Dutch who were interred into camps by the Japanese! I had never heard of their stories or horrific trials! Wow! The story of George and the Navy officers was just as stunning! Not going to lie, I had to read this book over several days as the content and realized brutality really took a toll as I was reading but I am so glad I finished this book! This is a must read! You will walk away for a greater appreciation for everything from your freedoms, your food, your space and your family! Wonderfully written and I feel like I gained another look into heroic men and women I never knew existed.
This was a fascinating tale of a historical event that I knew nothing about!
I had no idea that Indonesia was once a Dutch colony and I had no idea of all the suffering that happened there during the war.
This book was well written and definitely well researched. I loved that I got a great story while learning about history.
This was not my typical fluffy, silly read- it had a lot of heavy and sad details, but it was all done tastefully.
Once I started reading I didn’t want to put it down and after I was finished I wanted to get online and research some more- I love when a book does that to me.
UNDER THE JAVA MOON by HEATHER B. MOORE is a well researched and well written account of the experiences of Marie (Rita) Vischer during the three years she and her family lived in the Tjideng prison camp after the Netherlands East Indies surrendered to Japan in 1942. Her father, naval engineer George Vischer, ended up in the Glodok men’s camp after surviving shipwreck, starvation and five days on the open sea……
This heart wrenching story that shows the wickedness and evil there is in the world, also shows enormous courage in the face of starvation and torture and the unconditional love that exists between famiy members.
As an aside I am so glad Rita was happily married to a South African in the end, as I am proudly South African!
I highly recommend this amazing book as an interesting and inspirational read.
I was given a free copy of the book by NetGalley from Shadow Mountain Publishing. The opinions in this review are completely my own.
The amazing and emotional story of Dutch Civilians in Java and their experiences as prisoners of the Japanese. This is a must read for anyone interested in the Pacific War.
This is the story of Marie (Rita) Vischer Elliott, and her 3.5 years of childhood spent in a prisoner of war camp while living in Indonesia (then known as Dutch East Indies) during World War II.
The story switches seamlessly back and forth as it is told from Marie's perspective and that of each of her parents.
The island on which they lived was one of many that had come under Japanese occupation in March of 1942. Marie and her mother, grandmother and younger brother were sent to an internment camp for women and young children. Her father was captured weeks later and sent to a men's camp.
Marie's story focuses on life while living under extremely harsh conditions in Tjideng Camp, which housed 2600 internees at the beginning of the war, yet more than 10,300 lived there by the end of it. The poor conditions included starvation, rampant disease, unjust punishments and the loss of freedom, all of which were exacerbated by a cruel camp supervisor, who was later convicted of war crimes.
The author weaves into the Vischer family's story the historical experiences of others at various camps during this time period. There is a great amount of detail, resulting in a fascinating story.
The end of the war did not end the hardships of the Dutch inhabitants of Indonesia as the Indonesians asserted and later obtained their independence from a long period of Dutch rule.
Heather B. Moore has done an admirable job of background research to enable the reader to better understand this time period and what was occurring in this area of the world.
Additionally, Marie's father, George Vischer, wrote several articles about his war experiences, which were published in 1990.
The end of the book includes Chapter Notes, links to relevant articles and a Bibliography. However, it is the Afterword from Marie (Rita) Vischer Elliott, dated August 1, 2022 that stays in my mind. Marie kept quiet for many decades, but she did not forget what her family had endured. I am glad to have been able to read her story.
This book was excellent.
Thank-you to Shadow Mountain Publishing, Netgalley.com and Heather B. Moore for providing me with a complimentary copy of Under the Java Moon in exchange for my unbiased review.
Most of us have heard the basics of war and some of us have even learned of even more of the greater details. But one can never fully understand what it was like to live through one unless you were there. However, Heather B Moore does a phenomenal job and comes pretty close. My heart was breaking for these people as I read about the camps and everything they were put through. I rejoiced and cheered with every victory they had and especially when the war was over. I have a greater understanding of the sorrow and he’ll one went through and how they must have lost all dignity and humanity in the cause of self preservation and the preservation of their children. I also have a greater understanding that they tried to maintain hope but they must have been forever haunted from their past, even though they overcame so much. This is such a beautifully written story, and is I highly recommend it.
I like how the people in this story each go through the war in different ways it made the story more interesting. I like historical fiction books because sometimes they say true things that have happened it makes you feel like you are actually there with the people this book was approved by netgalley and the publisher for me to read and review.
The was a good historical fiction book about the island of Java . It was a different WWII story that I enjoyed and learned from . .
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for letting me read and review this book
I love when I read a book and learn something new. I had no idea what this book was going to be about, other than that it was Historical Fiction. I also knew nothing about the Java islands or the hardships that the Dutch went through living there during WWII. It's such an important part of WWII history that is very little talked about. Under the Java Moon is a well-researched and well written novel based on the experiences of Marie Visher (Rita Visher; called Ita in much of the book) during the 3 years she and her family were prisoners of war in Tjideng after the NEI's surrendered to Japan in 1942.
"Each night as the moon rises, look up at it, and I'll do the same. Thinking of you and the children. Under the Java Moon." - George Vischer, Under the Java Moon by Heather B. Moore
The story is oftentimes gut-wrenching and made me sick to my stomach thinking and reading of the way these 'prisoners' were treated. It is so sad, and you can't even fully understand what it's like to live through something like that.
Rita (a very young child at the time) & her family showed so much courage in the face of starvation, abuse, torture, rampant disease, and death all around them. You really feel for them, and you begin to cheer with every victory they have, no matter how small. It's unfathomable the things they had to endure and how they continued to maintain hope that things would get better.
I loved how the characters all had different stories and experiences of their own throughout the war. Moore does a great job at capturing the thoughts and feelings of each character by switching the point of view for each chapter. You get a glimpse of what war was like at sea with George & Vos, as well as what it was like in the men's POW camps. Then, you get a peek into the horrible conditions of the women & children's POW camp that Mary, Rita, Oma, Georgie & Robbie are staying.
While this is a sad story and hard to read about, it's also a story about holding on to hope through all life's hardships. It is about perseverance, resilience, and courage beyond words. These women, children and men were so lucky to survive, and it's no wonder once their family was safe, no one ever spoke of the war again. I feel honored to have read Marie's story and glad that she decided to tell it after all these years. It is so important we know what happened and it is also important to know that "humanity would always rise about the rubble of lost dreams, hatred & prejudice. Ita and her family were living proof." - Heather B. Moore, Under the Java Moon
At the end of the book, there are Chapter Notes with some of Moore's research, which I thought was a great inclusion. I plan to look into some of the things that she had linked, especially the articles that George wrote about his war experiences.
The words that will stick well after reading this, are from Marie Vischer herself, written in the Afterword. "I learned that the human race is very resilient & adaptable, but life itself is fragile. We should not take it for granted." - Marie Vischer
The book was stunning to say the least.
Thank you NetGalley, Shadow Mountain, and Heather B. Moore for my ARC.
Under the Java Moon by Heather Moore is based on the true story of an internment camp in the Dutch East Indies during WWII and the challenges one particular family faces in these dreadful and taxing circumstances that ultimately left thousands dead. When the Japanese invaded the Dutch East Indies, they were assigned to put all the Dutch, many of whom had been in Indonesia for at least four generations, in the camp. At the same time, the local Indonesians saw this as their opportunity to finally actively object to the Dutch occupiers.
The family that plays the greatest part in describing the horrible rigors of the camp is the Vischer family. Their poignant and tender story which is juxtaposed against the cruelties and illnesses in the camp details the family closeness and in particular, the leadership and resilience of the wife and mother, Mary. Mary has a daughter, Rita, known as Ita, her younger brother Georgie, and another son, Robbie, born in the camp. Mary's mother, Oma, also adds strength to the family unit although she does no survive the camp. There are a couple of other families, friends of the Vischers who are fictional and round out the picture of the camp. Eventually, George, the father, who tried unsuccessfully to escape to Australia to help fight the Japanese, ends up in the camp with his family toward the end of the war.
Mary's adamantine and inspirational ability to confront lack of food, deadly illnesses, and the utter cruelty of one Japanese Commandant keep her family together. The closeness they achieve in spite of depraved and disgusting conditions is remarkable.
Author Moore's excellent historical research and her interviews with members of the family are incisive. She details the pre-internment camp lives of the Dutch and then provides every necessary and even riveting detail of life in the camp. For those of us who had incomplete understanding of the Dutch East Indies conflict and then the Japanese invasion, this wonderful book gives detail and comprehensively explains the history of the Second World War in this part of the world.
I learned a lot from this historical fiction novel. Heather Moore, the author, did a fabulous job of writing this story. I liked at the end of the story the information Heather added by chapter. I highly recommend this novel.
WOW! ANOTHER great book by Heather B Moore.
I had never heard of the story of the Dutch in Indonesia during World War II. I was intrigued and dug right into the book.
Its very fast paced, wonderfully written, and although fiction, based on true events.
My heart went out to the people caught up in the war and what happened in the internment camps.
I thought that the author did a wonderful job of telling the story and blending it with the historical events.
Everyone wanting to know more about World War II in Asia should read this book.
Under the Java Moon is an amazing story. The Vischer family is just one example of what the Dutch people went through in Java during the war and after. They survived so many hardships and trials. There are other families who were there alongside the Vischer, whom we get to know and feel their losses and triumphs. These stories need to be told, so others can see what has happened and hopefully learn from them.
#Under the Java Moon
This book is based on a true story. It is a little-known part of World War 2 history. It explores what happened to the Dutch people living in the Dutch colonies in Indonesia before and during the Japanese invasion in WW2. It specifically takes place on the island of Java. The story follows a Dutch family that is split up and imprisoned when the Japanese take over the island. George Vischer, the father, leaves with the military right before the invasion, but his ship is sunk by the Japanese. He and the other survivors must persevere through exposure, starvation, injury, and betrayal. Mary, the mother, is pregnant. She, their two children, and her own mother are imprisoned in a POW camp on the island. The captivity and separation lasts for 3 years. Thankfully most of the family was together in the camp, but they had no idea where or if their husband and father was alive. It is hard to imagine living like they did. They were starved almost to death, beaten, mentally tortured, and suffered from disease and injury with barely any medical care. I appreciate that it was noted that not all of their Japanese captors were evil. There were kind soldiers just trying to follow their orders and sadistic ones. The kind ones gave me hope for humanity. Honestly, I thought the Japanese soldiers as a whole ended up being more honorable than the natives of Java. After the war was over the Javans were killing the remaining Dutch survivors indiscriminately. The Japanese were trying to protect the Dutch. Yes, they were ordered to, but I have to think it was more than just duty driving them. It is said that in war there are no winners.
This was not an easy or enjoyable read. Most of the story was very sad which made it hard for me to get through it. But, the story was well-written and it needed to be told. I am glad I read it. The themes of family, compassion, and perseverance make the book hopeful despite the evil it portrays. I want to share stories like this with my children so they remember that we are all human beings and have value.
This is my honest opinion based on the complimentary review copy sent by NetGalley and the publisher. I was not required to give a favorable review.
Based on the life of a young Dutch mother, her children and her mother who are held in a Japanese prisoner camp in Indonesia during WWII. The author has done extensive research and melded together stories from other survivors with the actual story of the Vischer family. The father is given orders to crew with a mine sweeper and get to Australia before the Japanese take over Java. His story is told in parallel to the women’s story. A fascinating and difficult read, one that was hard to put down. Brings the history of this place and time to all too vivid life. Thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for a preview copy.
A true eye opener for me. I knew nothing about the Japanese occupation of Java Island, in Indonesia, during WWII and the imprisonment of the Dutch in internment camps. The descriptions of the living conditions, within these internment camps, are visceral. Heather Moore’s writing is excellent. The story is riveting. The explanations of each chapter at the end of the book, are a wonderful re-cap. Thank you NetGalley and Shadow Mountain Publishing, for sending this book for review consideration. All opinions are my own. #UnderTheJavaMoon, # ShadowMountainPubslishing, #NetGalley.
Another side of the WW2 experience that I knew little about. Lots of information at the end of the book as well as notes for each chapter. The story revolves around a Dutch family, the Vischers. They become separated when the Japanese arrive in the Dutch East Indies. Women and children are sent to prison camps separate from the men. It was heartbreaking to read about the impact of war on Indonesia and the cruelty and horrible conditions suffered. Very well-researched. Thank you, NetGalley and Shadow Mountain for the opportunity to read this devasting account. My opinions are my own.
Beautiful story about a side of the war I hadn’t heard much about before. Thank you to the publisher for the review copy, all opinions are my own
"ᴀʟᴛʜᴏᴜɢʜ ɪ ʜᴀᴅ ʀᴇᴀᴅ ᴅᴏᴢᴇɴꜱ ᴏꜰ ʙᴏᴏᴋꜱ ᴀʙᴏᴜᴛ ᴡᴏʀʟᴅ ᴡᴀʀ ɪɪ ᴏᴠᴇʀ ᴛʜᴇ ʏᴇᴀʀꜱ, ɪ ʜᴀᴅɴ'ᴛ ᴇᴠᴇʀ ʀᴇᴀᴅ ᴀɴʏᴛʜɪɴɢ ᴀʙᴏᴜᴛ ᴛʜᴇ ᴅᴜᴛᴄʜ ᴘᴇᴏᴘʟᴇ'ꜱ ᴇxᴘᴇʀɪᴇɴᴄᴇ ɪɴ ɪɴᴅᴏɴᴇꜱɪᴀ".
This is how the author Heather B. Moore describes her interest in writing the story of Marie 'Rita' Vischer and her family of Dutch colonisers and military employers who live on Java island during the outbreak of WWII. It's the story of the brutality of the Japanese invasion, and how the colonisers become hunted and put into POW-camps of deplorable conditions. It's a fairly simple and straightforward narration, told in alternate POVs from the family, that leaves nothing out and guides the reader through all events.
There is so much to unpack. At the end of the book, there are excellent notes and study questions break down the events and reflect about them. All this makes the book suitable for readers new to historical fiction. While the content is heavy, the violence isn't too hard to read about I think, and rape is only alluded to. It's an eye-opening read about the World-aspect of the World War for those who don't know much about it.
The book is meticulously researched - except for one point. Several times in the story, the main characters describes how their wounds had become septic and they were in need of antibiotics. However, while the first antibiotics were discovered as early as the 19th century, penicillin wasn't manufactured and brought to the marked until after 1945. It was actually one of the main reason the war ended, since there had simply been too much loss of military personnel. This faulty research annoyed me enough to almost give the book three stars, but everything else is correct, so I relented.
Since the book is based on memories from a child, certain aspects are maybe not gone into with that much depth, like the native uprising after the war ended. Still, it's a good book that I recommend.
Thank you Netgalley and Shadow Mountain Publishing for the eArc.
Heather B Moore has written a beautiful World War II era novel in her newest release, Under the Java Moon. I loved it and highly recommend it for reader who enjoy historical fiction. Five stars.
Fast-paced, but interspersed with lyrical prose, this was a very compelling read! The changing narrative voices offer multiple perspectives of the same events, making this novel one of the most enjoyable reads this year! I’ve mostly read colonial/postcolonial fiction in which the ‘victims’ are the locals and, even then, it has been mostly fiction set in the Commonwealth region. So this gave me fresh perspective on the (Dutch) coloniser as ‘victim’.
Structurally, both the adult and childrens’ voices are captured well. However, in a couple of instances when Rita is narrating the story, the thinking and insights offered are quite unrealistic given that the narrator is 5 or 7-year-old child at the time. It would have been better suited to the insight if the voice had been an adult’s at these junctures, perhaps with a brief narrative from the child’s perspective at these points in the story.. But barring these these few instances, I enjoyed Rita’s narrative, as well as her mother’s narrative, the best!
I am not a great historian, and most of my knowledge of WW2 is more on the European side. My knowledge of what else Japan did during the war was vague, just a bit of Philippine things. So this book has been eye opening to me.
This book follows a Dutch family living in what is now Indonesia. Japan was happy to start occupying new lands after their success at Pearl Harbor. As they took over this area, they put all non-Java residents into camps, I would call them concentration camps. And while they did not do experiments on them as the Nazis did, these were still brutal places., with this camp possibly having some areas of less brutality than others. As I watched this family live in these conditions, my heart hurt so much. The inhumanity of man is heartbreaking. I truly appreciated the characters who were kind and were still the "enemy", you could tell the ones who kept their humanity as much as possible.
Thank you Rita for sharing your story with us! I cannot imagine how hard it was to share! Thank you for your resilience and your strength to live!
This book is amazing! I can't wait for the audio to share on a road trip with my husband! Great job Heather B. Moore, I am excited for what is next!
I was unaware of the Dutch internment camps in Java until this book. The story of the Vischer family is one of courage, faith and human kindness in the face of unspeakable horror and conditions. This book proves that we can choose our attitudes and actions even in the most dire of circumstances. I loved the family dynamic and the close relationships of the children. I would highly recommend this book to anyone.
In the Netherlands, just before WWII, my grandpa had finished building his home including an underground cellar. He just had a feeling they would need it! Whenever German soldiers marched into town friends and neighbors always knew where they could go and not be discovered.
The story of Marie (Rita) Visher Elliott and her family shows me the type of metal my Dutch heritage is made of! The camp that they were forced into and the deplorable ways in which they were treated is heartbreaking. The Japanese took over the oil rich island and they were able to recruit the Indonesians to their cause and turn them against their former Dutch friends. I was not aware of the tense relationship between the Dutch and their friends from Indonesia. The selected bibliography gave me several resources to look up and find out what caused the tension between former friends and neighbors. In the Japanese camps, the Dutch always helped and looked out for each other. They are survivors!
A special thanks to Marie (Rita) Visher Elliott, thank you for sharing your story!
I received a complimentary copy of "Under the Java Moon" from the publisher through NetGalley. The thoughts and opinions in this review are my own.
This was an amazing historical fiction, based on the true story of Mary and her family. It tells the story of Java Island in WWII, which was known as the Netherlands East Indies. Many Dutch families lived there. When the Japanese took control of the Island, the families were forced into POW camps in horrible conditions.
I had never heard of the experiences of the Dutch people of Java before reading this book, and I'm so glad to know their story of survival and resilience.
The book kept me turning pages so I could see what would happen to the family - each new chapter had me on the edge of my seat, hoping they could survive the trials they faced.
I definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction. This one definitely depicts the harsh realities of war, but I learned so much and was inspired by the Dutch people's strength.
Thank you to Shadow Mountain Publishing, NetGalley, and Heather B. Moore for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest opinions.
I absolutely love Heathers books and this one was equally fantastic as all of her other ones. This is a part of WWII HISTORY that once again I had very little knowledge of. I took AP world history in high school and was a history/ anthropology major in college, so a lot of history classes. This island wasn’t mentioned. I am so glad I know now! Thank you Heather for always bringing the untold stories out to the world.
Historical novel based on a true story, another great read by this author. Reminded me very much of a drama series set in Java Indonesia years ago. Set around 1942 in a time of instability for the wealthy Dutch families and settlers when the island is invaded by the Japanese army. Told from various viewpoints, the men in service who desert the island and the women and families left behind and the hardships they have to endure. Lack of food, unbearable living conditions and the strain of relationships as well as interactions with their captors allow the reader to become absorbed in the storyline.
Thanks to Netgalley the author and publishers for an ARC in return for an honest review
„Under the Java Moon“ offers a unique perspective of Dutch settler families during the Second World War in Java, Indonesia - a country the Dutch monarchy had been colonizing for hundreds of years. As a result, many Dutch people lived on the islands and called them their home.
Largely forgotten seem to be the regions of the world outside of Europe that greatly suffered because of European aggressors and their reach into all parts of the world, in this case the South Pacific.
Indonesia had to struggle with being colonized which subsequently led to the Japanese invasion during WWII after the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Allies declaring war against Japan as part of the Axis Powers.
Japanese war crimes and colonization throughout Asia is often brushed away and has not been subject to historical evaluation at all.
The book deals with a Dutch family that becomes POWs during the Japanese occupation and were put into internment camps under horrible rule.
It is quite jarring to realize that not only Jewish people (although they are to be seen separate to European POWs not only in numbers but because European POWs were not subject to an industrialized genocide with a centuries long history of prejudice and violence against them but on the contrary, an extremely privileged and also colonizing group up until the South Pacific Islands were occupied by Japan) but also so many other innocent people were put into internment or concentration camps during WWII.
The writing was excellent. I especially liked that it was full of emotions but not full on trauma porn like it is often the case with fiction of war. Of course extremely terrible and horrible things happened during the Japanese occupation but it did not need to be written out word for word. In my opinion the reader was quite aware of what was going on without depicting in detail all the war crimes or crimes that were committed among the prisoners themselves.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.