Book Review: The Bamboo Trilogy by Ann Bennett

I was recently invited to take part in a blog tour for Bamboo Road, the third book in the Bamboo trilogy, by Ann Bennett. Ordinarily, I like to review books on their own, but I felt that this trio was ripe to be reviewed as a set.

The first book, Bamboo Heart tells the story of Tom Ellis, a young man seeking his fortune in Singapore who ends up working on the Japanese ‘Death Railway’ in Thailand. His daughter, Laura some 40 years later is inspired to find out what her father went through in those awful years.

This story is I think the most touching for me, as it comes out of Ann Bennett’s own search to discover what her father went through in a similar situation to Tom Ellis. Although there is a focus on the dreadful experiences of Commonwealth military in the prison camps of the Far East, it is never without empathy. It shows the horror of how those men lived and survived in awful circumstances.

The next book, Bamboo Island, focuses more on Malaya and the colonist experience, as we follow Juliet Crosby, a young English woman as she is trapped in Singapore as the Japanese invade, and forced into hiding, eventually living through the deprivations of Changi prison. Again, Ann Bennett’s impeccable research reveals some of the dreadful conditions and fear of living through an occupation, and there is a great deal of factual information without it detracting from the story being told. There is a good mystery plot woven through this novel too, with a surprise ending which is heart-warming.

The third book in the trilogy, Bamboo Road, deals with the experience of the Thai people during WW2, focusing on Sirinya and her family, ordinary people who are drawn into doing extraordinary things to help the Thai underground during occupation.

All three novels are an excellent read if your interest runs to historical fiction. I sometimes feel that in this country we focus a lot on the war that happened in Europe, and forget that actually thousands of our troops fought and died, or were held prisoner in the Far East, going through starvation conditions and ill treatment, all while building a railway through the jungle. These books bring that into focus and are definitely a great starting point in learning more about that aspect of WW2 in an accessible way.

Aside from that though, the books have very human stories at their heart, and show people defying the odds, and their own weaknesses to come through the worst of circumstances.

The Bamboo Trilogy concluded with Bamboo Road, which was published in March. All three books are published by Monsoon Books and you can find out more about Ann Bennett on her website, or you can connect with her on Twitter.

Note: I was sent copies of these books for review purposes. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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