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The Way of a Boy: A Memoir of Java by Ernest…

The Way of a Boy: A Memoir of Java

by Ernest Hillen

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Ernest Hillen was seven years old, living with his wealthy Dutch family on a colonial tea plantation in 1942, when the Japanese invaded the island and interned (i.e., imprisoned and/or sent to forced labor projects throughout southeast Asia) all white Europeans (or those who looked European-enough).
  seaward | Jan 21, 2012 |
I simply did not find this book interesting. It sounds like good fodder for a memoir: an innocent family locked up in an internment camp because of a faraway war. But it was dull, dull, dull. I don't know how much of it was the author's writing and how much of it was just the situation. Because, when you think about it, life in an internment camp probably would be mostly squalid and boring rather than exciting and scary. I also wish more historical context had been provided to the story. I don't know much about the Pacific Theater of World War II and I wasn't always sure about why things happened the way they did.

For a much more exciting take on white colonials in Southeast Asia during World War II, try Roland Smith's novel Elephant Run. ( )
  meggyweg | Feb 23, 2010 |
The Way of a Boy describes Ernest's harrowing experiences in Japanese detention camps from 1942 when the Japanese invaded the Dutch East Indies, until the end of the war. Ernest's father was taken off early and Ernest passed into the camps with his mother and older brother Jerry, who was eventually also moved to a separate camp when he got too old (something around 13). Miraculously all survived and were reunited after the war. Writing 50 years later, Hillen has remarkably sharp memories of his time in the camps. He describes well the deprivation of the camps, the brutality of the Japanese, the daily demand from his mother that they retain the values and behaviours of a different time and place because it was important not to give in to the malaise and apathy of camp life, the pettiness of some prisoners, the bravery and self-sacrifice of others, the pathos of those who cracked and died, the incredible strength of some, and through it all the resiliency of a human spirit that can adapt and live in such appalling conditions. A well-written book and one that reminds me, again, of what an incredibly sheltered and privileged life I have enjoyed compared to the misery that has afflicted millions, just in this century.
1 vote John | Nov 29, 2005 |
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