With his customary elegance and skill, Keneally fictionalises one of the bloodiest prison escapes of the second world war, says Carmel Bird in The Guardian
On a frosty moonlit night in August 1944, 545 Japanese captives broke out of the prison camp for Japanese, Italians and Koreans near the town of Cowra. Two hundred and thirty-four of the prisoners and four Australian soldiers died. The missing escapees were recaptured. Tom Keneally was a boy of nine living in Sydney at the time. His father was away at the war, and Keneally remembers the terror that the outbreak struck into the hearts of everyone around him. In this novel inspired by the events, Keneally reveals again the power that the conflicts of the 20th century have over him. Again he gives vivid human faces to the victims and the perpetrators of war. He weaves his magic and the reader falls under his spell.