John Purcell reviews Shame and the Captives by Tom Keneally
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.
This is a Booktoberfest title. Buy this book now to go in the draw to win Booktopia’s weekly giveaway – a $250 Booktopia voucher – AND order by 31st October 2013 to go in the draw to win the fantastic publisher prize.
About the Contributor
Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog. He has been shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize and was named a finalist for the 2015 Young Bookseller of the Year Award. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.
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