Publisher Harper Collins
Available in ebook, audiobook and hardback (20 August 2020)
ABOUT THE BOOK
War imprisoned them. Friendship set them free.
China, 1941. With Japan’s declaration of war on the Allies, Elspeth Kent’s future changes forever. When soldiers take control of the missionary school where she teaches, comfortable security is replaced by rationing, uncertainty and fear.
Ten-year-old Nancy Plummer has always felt safe at Chefoo School. Now the enemy, separated indefinitely from anxious parents, the children must turn to their teachers – to Miss Kent and her new Girl Guide patrol especially – for help. But worse is to come when the pupils and teachers are sent to a distant internment camp. Unimaginable hardship, impossible choices and danger lie ahead.
Inspired by true events, this is the unforgettable story of the life-changing bonds formed between a young girl and her teacher, in a remote corner of a terrible war.
The Bird in the Bamboo Cage will be published in the US/Canada as When We Were Young and Brave
My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the tour invite and the publisher for providing the extract. I so wanted to review for this tour but I had already ordered my own copy and knew that it wouldn’t arrive in time for me to read and review so for my turn today I have an extract. I will read and review separately. In the meantime, do take a look at the other bloggers taking part below.
NANCY Oxford, 1975
We didn’t talk about it afterwards. Not to loved ones, or to neighbours who stared at us from across the street, or to the newspaper men who were curious to know more about these lost children, returned from the war in the East like ghosts come back from the dead. We quietly packed it all away in our battered suitcases and stepped awkwardly back into the lives we’d once known. Eventually, everyone stopped asking; stopped staring and wondering. Like our suitcases gathering dust in the attic, we were forgotten.
But we didn’t forget.
Those years clung to us like a midday shadow, waiting to trip us up when we least expected it: a remembered song, a familiar scent, a name overheard in a shop, and there we were in an instant, wilting in the stifling heat during roll-call, kept awake at night by the ache of unimaginable hunger. I suppose it was inevitable that we would talk about it in the end; that we would tell the story of our war.
I’m still surprised by how much I have to say; how much I remember. I’d assumed I would only recall odd scraps and incoherent fragments, but it has all become clearer despite being ignored; the memories sharpened by distance and time. Now, when I talk about my school years in China, people only want to hear the parts about occupation and internment. That’s the story everyone wants me to tell; how terrible it was and how frightened we were. But I also remember the smaller, simpler moments of a young girl’s school days: smudged ink on fingertips, disinfectant in the corridors, hopscotch squares and skipping games, the iridescent wings of a butterfly that danced through the classroom window one autumn morning and settled on the back of my hand. I want to tell that side of my story, too.
Perhaps part of me wishes I could go back to the time before; that I could appreciate those quiet, inconsequential days before everything changed: giggling into our hands when Miss Kent’s back was turned, grumbling to Sprout about lumpy porridge, turning cartwheels with Mouse on the golden sands of the bay, exchanging secret whispers in the pitch dark of the dorm. Oblivious to what lay ahead, we clattered thoughtlessly on through the careful precision of school routine – breakfast and prayers, assembly and lessons, tiffin and supper, Sibling Saturday and Empire Day – wildly ignorant of our privileges; unaware of the things we were about to lose, and the things we had already lost.
Our war arrived quietly, two weeks before Christmas, settling over the terracotta roof tiles of Chefoo School with the first of the season’s snow. Safe in our beds, over one hundred boys and girls slept soundly, oblivious to the events happening at Pearl Harbor over five thousand miles away; unaware that the ripples of conflict were racing across the Pacific toward us.
I was only ten years old that winter. Brownie Guides was my favourite part of the school week, and my feet still couldn’t quite reach the floor when I sat on the edge of my bed.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hazel Gaynor is an award-winning, New York Times, USA Today, and Irish Times, bestselling author of historical fiction, including her debut THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME, for which she received the 2015 RNA Historical Novel of the Year award. THE LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER’S DAUGHTER was shortlisted for the 2019 HWA Gold Crown award. She is published in thirteen languages and nineteen countries. Hazel is co-founder of creative writing events, The Inspiration Project, and currently lives in Ireland with her family, though originally from Yorkshire.