5 August, 1944: Over 1000 Japanese soldiers attempt to break out of the No. 12 Prisoner of War compound on the fringes of Cowra. In the carnage, hundreds are killed, many are recaptured and imprisoned, and some take their own lives rather than suffer the humiliation of ongoing defeat. But one soldier, Hiroshi, determined to avoid either fate, manages to escape.
At nearby Erambie Aboriginal mission, Banjo Williams, father of nine and proud man of his community, discovers a distraught Hiroshi pleading for help. The people of Erambie have seen enough death and heartache, so Banjo and the Erambie community decide to offer Hiroshi refuge.
Mary, Banjo’s daughter, recently returned from being in service in Sydney, is intrigued by the Japanese stranger, and is charged with his care. Love blossoms, but life for the community on the mission is one of restriction – living under Acts of Protection and Assimilation, and always under the watchful eye of the mission manager. In wartime Australia, the children are terrified of air raids, but their parents fear a life without rights. And for Mary and Hiroshi, there is much in their way.
Mary is forbidden under the Act, and by her own father, to marry Hiroshi, so together they plot their own escape from the mission. But solidarity in the community is eroding and trouble is brewing.
I enjoyed this book very much – from the tightly-woven plot set in war-time Cowra to the portrayal of two beautiful, yet vulnerable characters of the fall-in-love-with type. Whilst this is fiction, the narrative seemed so authentic and the characters and the harsh environment so real there were moments I came close to tears. I loved both Mary and Hiroshi. This story touched me in ways I never expected.
A wonderful tale of enduring love that will tug at your heartstrings.
Published by Simon and Schuster Australia