Shame and the Captives by Thomas Keneally – review


Keneally’s ingenuity comes to the fore in this compelling fictionalised account of how Japanese PoWs staged a breakout in New South Wales: The Guardian

Thomas Keneally

‘Fiction has always tried to tell the truth by telling lies’ … Thomas Keneally. Photograph: Richard Saker

As a child of the second world war, Thomas Keneally has vivid memories of the midwinter night in 1944 when a group of Japanese prisoners staged a breakout from an internment camp close to the New South Wales town of Cowra. In the introduction to this fictionalised retelling of events, he recalls a great aunt who took to sleeping with an axe, and farmers leaving rifles for their wives: “We did not understand its motives which lay beyond the horizons of our culture and imagination,” Keneally writes. “We judged them to include the intent to do unspeakable damage to women, children and men, in that order.”

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