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Their motto was to be prepared but nothing could prepare them for warThe New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Came Home sets her unforgettable new novel in China during WWII inspired by true events surrounding the Japanese Army’s internment of teachers and children from a British run missionary schoolChina December 1941 Having left an unhappy life in England for a teaching post at a missionary school in northern China Elspeth Kent is now anxious to return home to help the war effort But as she prepares to leave China a terrible twist of fate determines a different path for Elspeth and those in her chargeTen year old Nancy Plummer has always felt safe at Chefoo School protected by her British status But when Japan declares war on Britain and America Japanese forces take control of the school and the security and comforts Nancy and her friends are used to are replaced by privation uncertainty and fear Now the enemy and separated from their parents the children look to their teachers – to Miss Kent and her new Girl Guide patrol especially – to provide a sense of unity and safetyFaced with the relentless challenges of oppression the school community must rely on their courage faith and friendships as they pray for liberation – but worse is to come when they are sent to a distant internment camp where even greater uncertainty and danger await Inspired by true events When We Were Young and Brave is an unforgettable novel about impossible choices and unimaginable hardship and the life changing bonds formed between a young girl and her teacher in a remote corner of a terrible war


10 thoughts on “The Bird in the Bamboo Cage

  1. says:

    Made it as far as 40% and realised this really wasn’t bringing me joy It’s not that the book is bad by any means but it felt like a YA novel and not what I was expecting I enjoy historical fiction but this had no real bite to it and actually felt uite childish I was drawn to this one by the premise of the story which is set in China 1n 1941 japan has just declared war on the Allies Elspeth Kent is a teacher at the missionary school where 10 year old Nancy Plummer is a boarder When the teachers and students are sent to a distant Interment camp unimaginable hardship and choices lie ahead for them While based on true events the story is told from two viewpoints one of Nancy and the other of the teacher Elspeth The format works uite well but for some read I just couldn't connect with the story at all I felt it lacks luster and underwhelming I listened to the audio version and by 40% I realised I really wasn’t interested enough to continue This certainly isn't a bad book by any means It’s just not the type of historical fiction I enjoy


  2. says:

    Thanks to Edelweiss HarperCollins and Hazel Gaynor for my copy of When We Were Young BraveChina 1941 the children of Chefoo missionary school are eagerly looking forward to Christmas and it’s only a few weeks away Elspeth Kent is one of the teachers at the school and she’s been seriously considering returning home to England She has no idea that she will not be leaving China and she will be one of the main leaders to help guide her fellow teachers and students through years of Japanese oppression The Japanese forces arrive and take over the school the comfortable life of the students teachers and Chinese staff are used to changes very uickly This is due to Japan attacking Pearl Harbor and both Britain and America declare war on Japan Nancy Plummer Plum and her friends Dorothy Sprout and Joan Mouse are students at the school they have always felt safe secure and have been well looked after Suddenly the children and staff are cut off from their loved ones the outside world by WW II and the Japanese army Miss Kent and her student Girl Guide patrol use many of the Guides mottoes their new experiences and challenges as a way of earning their badges and dealing with difficult tasks During their time as enemy nationals they are moved around China from one place to another and their last destination is a Civilian Assembly Center in Weihsien Living conditions here are very primitive; the Japanese soldiers in charge are difficult the food is terrible and not enough for growing children medical supplies are running low and they all start to look very shabby and thin Here the everyday struggles of teachers and students in such a horrible environment reuire them all to show incredible courage strength and determination to survive guiding them is the formidable Miss Kent and they all pray to be liberated soon by the American army Inspired by true facts When We Were Young and Brave is an amazing story of human spirit the strong bond and trust formed between teachers and students friendship made and never giving up despite the harshness of WW II and the nastiness of the Japanese army and guards Hazel Gaynor’s books never disappoint her attention to detail and her thorough research is obvious when you read her new book I thoroughly enjoyed When We Were Young Brave and five stars from me


  3. says:

    FULL REVIEW WILL BE ON OCTOBER 6It is 1941 Pearl Harbor was bombed and the Japanese army took over Chefoo a British run schoolWHEN WE WERE YOUNG AND BRAVE is based on true events which I never was aware of but it shows the resiliency and creativity of human nature to work with what you have This book is about friendship courage hope and endurance It is a beautiful book that will have you appreciating your freedom and your familyMiss Gaynor’s meticulous research had me looking for information about the lives of the teachers and students and about the Chefoo school 45 This book was given to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review


  4. says:

    The story alternates between two first person narrators – Nancy Plummer and Elspeth Kent – providing the reader with different perspectives on the unfolding events After all the thoughts and feelings of a ten year old girl are likely to be very different to that of an experienced teacher What unites them is the value of friendship I liked the way the friendship between Elspeth and fellow teacher Minnie grows allowing them to share the past disappointments and tragedies in their lives Similarly Nancy’s friendship with Dorothy ‘Sprout’ and Joan ‘Mouse’ helps to ease the pain of separation from her parentsWhen the teachers and children are forced to leave their beloved Chefoo School Elspeth receives two parting gifts from their Chinese servants that will come to be a source of comfort in the years ahead The first will help her to distance herself mentally from the traumatic experiences she will witness and endure It’s a theme picked up later in the book when a character observes “Thinking is the real war isn’t it? It’s our minds that will ultimately determine whether we win or lose; whether we survive” The second gift becomes not only a symbol of hope and resilience but a way to honour the memory of those who will not live to see freedomThe reality of what in loco parentis really entails becomes clear as Elspeth Minnie and the other teachers find themselves thrust into a role far beyond that of merely educators As Elspeth muses “I was here to step into the shoes of all the absent parents I was here to watch over these temporary orphans of war” Often Elspeth underestimates just how important she is to the children’s mental and emotional strength In a way the need to look after and protect the children provides a distraction from the challenges each day brings – the unsanitary conditions shortage of food risk of disease and cruelty of the guards As Elspeth remarks “For the children I kept going”Routine and upholding the principles of the Girl Guides – loyalty courage hard work and so on – are the strategies Elspeth and Minnie use to hold things together distracting the children from the hardships of the internment camp However they cannot protect them from everything and none of the children will emerge from the experience unchangedAs an admirer of John Buchan I’m sure you can imagine my delight when one of his books turns up in the camp library set up by the redoubtable Mrs Trevellyan There’s also a mention of one of Buchan’s favourite books The Pilgrim’s Progress which incidentally is used to pass clandestine messages in his novel Mr Standfast And I could only nod in agreement at Mrs T’s observation about the value of books “This is our escape Right here in all these glorious words Between these pages we can be as free as the birds We can go anywhere we please”The Bird in the Bamboo Cage brings to life the story of the children of Chefoo School in a way that immerses the reader in their experiences I felt I was living every moment with them Although there are things that are difficult to read about there are uplifting moments as well including small acts of defiance and of unexpected kindness I can only echo the words of the author when she notes in the Afterword “No matter the time or distance from an historical event the universal themes of love grief friendship regret and resilience are what connect us all across the decades”


  5. says:

    The Chefoo School in Northern China is home to privileged British and American children of missionaries and diplomats In 1941 Nancy Plummer “Plum” and her brother are students there and teacher Elspeth Kent has insured Plum’s mother that she will take special care of the young girl The Japanese have overtaken China and the lives of the students and teachers are going to change foreverWhen We Were Young Brave starts in 1975 with Nancy looking back at her time during the war This moving book is told through the eyes of Nancy and Elspeth who develop a close bond In addition to their studies Elspeth has formed a troop of BrowniesGirl Guides comparable to the Girl Scouts in the US which teaches Nancy and her friends leadership and life skills Once England and the United States declare war on Japan the school is overtaken and the students and teachers are their prisoners Life in the school is able to continue with Japanese soldiers watching over them They eventually are transported to a Civilian Assembly Center otherwise known as an internment camp where the children and teachers are living with others deemed as enemies of Japan Life becomes progressively worse for everyone The children and teachers rely on one another to survive as they are met with lack of food sickness and extreme crueltyWhen We Were Young Brave shines a light on a rarely told heartbreaking side of the war And seeing the war through the eyes of a young girl was particularly powerful Nancy and Elspeth were two very appealing characters who show courage and resiliency This was a very beautiful and worthwhile read inspired by the author's own family's personal storyMany thanks to William Morrow HarperCollins NetGalley and author Hazel Gaynor for a copy of When We Were Young Brave in advance of its October 6 2020 publication date Get your Kleenex readyRated 425 starsReview posted on MicheleReadercom


  6. says:

    5 Favorite Reads of 2020 StarsThis one just made me so happy Not because of the content but for the feelings I loved to connect to the characters in this one I loved the way this book was structured the atmosphere and characters and I shed some tears I’ve read several others by this author and they just get better and betterSet in China during WWII at a British missionary school Chefoo this one has alternating chapters from Elspeth – a teacher at the school – and Nancy at 10 year old student Another facet of WWII fiction that I hadn’t read about until this book Japan has invaded China and soon Japanese soldiers have a presence at the school Elspeth escaped to China after tragedy dealt her a raw hand in England She is a wonderful teacher and role model for the students at the school but she’s grappling with her past Elspeth and her fellow teachers try to keep structure and learning as the driving forces of the day but it’s difficult with the troops there With radios confiscated they are feeling very isolatedNancy like many of the students has parents who are diplomats or missionaries and the students have built strong bonds that are shaken with the unknowns of what will happen with the war and their school They look to their teachers for guidance and reassurance Nancy has wonderful friends and I loved their nicknames – Sprout and Mouse – and they grow up and face challenges during the course of the book I loved getting Nancy’s perspective on the situation and her outlook on lifeThere are some great pieces in the book with the Girl Guides and how many of the guiding principles of this club keep the girls going earning new badges and having ceremonies even while the school is under Japanese controlAs the war goes on the 100 school children must move to different facilities and are ultimately sent to an internment camp There are some decent Japanese guards and some evil ones that the Chefusians encounter There are supply and food shortages and the constant fear under the soldiers The teachers did a great job with being role models and substitute parents for the students amidst terrible circumstancesThis one is based on true events and meticulously researched Gaynor has a way of writing that completely immersed me in this place and time I highly recommend this oneThank you to Book Club GirlsHarper CollinsMorrow for the complimentary copy of this one to read


  7. says:

    When we read books about children in World War II they often deal with the internment camps in the United States sending children to the countryside in England or evacuating Jewish children to other countries Hazel Gaynor presented a fresh focus by concentrating on a group of children studying at a school sponsored by the China Inland Mission Most children belonged to diplomats or missionaries mostly British but some Americans and other nationalities When Japan declared war on the United States they were already occupying parts of China and moved in uickly to take over the school placing Japanese ownership signs on everything The children were able to stay there for a short time but were moved to another location in Chefoo Eventually they were sent to an internment camp in Weihsien where they remained for the duration The story is told through the eyes of one of the girls and one of the teachers I loved this book and cried in several places I received an advance reader's copy through LibraryThing Early Reviewers in exchange for an honest review 45 stars


  8. says:

    ‘Their motto was to be prepared but nothing could prepare them for war' The Bird in the Bamboo Cage by Hazel Gaynor will be published August 20th with Harper Collins It is a novel inspired by true events and is described as ‘an unforgettable novel about impossible choices and unimaginable hardship and the life changing bonds formed between a young girl and her teacher in a remote corner of a terrible war’It’s no secret that I love Hazel Gaynor’s writing so I just couldn’t put off sharing my thoughts on her upcoming release a little earlier than I had intended Hazel Gaynor’s ability to develop her characters in all her books bringing history alive on the pages is such a wonderful skill The Bird in the Bamboo Cage is no exception as it immerses the reader completely into the lives of the teachers and children of the Chefoo Missionary School for foreigners on China’s eastern coast in Shandong during WW2 The story of Chefoo school is real The internment of the teachers and children following Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbour is real Hazel Gaynor’s inspiration for the book was an NPR Podcast and with her own involvement with the BrowniesGuides when growing up she brought the two together and created this wonderful tale “We didn’t talk about it afterwardsNot to loved ones or to neighbours who stared at us from across the street curious to know about these lost children returned from the war in China like ghosts come back from the deadEventually everyone stopped staring and wonderingWE WERE FORGOTTENBUT WE DIDN’T FORGETElspeth Kent moved to China to escape her own personal troubles at home With her dreams shattered she ‘escaped’ to China for an adventure some excitement to distract her from her own life Teaching was the perfect role for Elsbeth and for awhile she enjoyed her job in Chefoo School but the time had come to bid farewell to return home and face up to her life in England But when the Japanese troops entered the school gates Elsbeth never got the opportunity to resign and she knew that life was never going to be the same againNancy Plummer and her friends were students of Chefoo School With her parents working away as missionaries she was placed in the care of the school for her education She was expecting to see her parents during the holidays but the winter season put a stop to that Then the sudden arrival of the Japanese army brought a new reality crashing down Nancy knew that her days were about to change but she was totally unprepared for the journey that lay in front of herWith the motivation of the teachers the pupils of the school were encouraged to develop a can do attitude Nancy and her friends were involved with the Brownies so were used to structure and achieving goals Using the ideology of the Brownie handbook Elsbeth created ‘fun’ challenges for her students providing much needed distraction from the looming chaos surrounding themThe Japanese army took over the school and eventually after a few moves the Chefoo School community were moved to the internment camp at Weihsien a place for enemies of the Japanese state The conditions here were deplorable but Elsbeth and her colleagues did their utmost to protect the children from some of the barbaric actions of a few of the Japanese soldiers Hazel Gaynor incorporates the real life story of Olympian athlete Eric Liddell who was also interred at the camp and was a central character in providing inspiration to many of the children based there Hazel Gaynor provides the reader with insights into the ingenuity of the prisoners to keep themselves sane and alive during their time in the camp One example is the true story of how eggshells were baked crushed and then fed to the children to help with obvious calcium deficiencies due to the bad diet provided to them These eggs were a valuable commodity traded on the very dangerous black marketAnyone who watched the 1980s TV series Tenko will be completely captivated by The Bird in the Bamboo Cage Tenko although a fictional account of a similar Japanese internment camp felt very authentic The portrayal of these people and the lengths they went to to survive each day was so very poignant very realistic Hazel Gaynor brings the same authenticity to her story Elspeth Kent and Nancy Plummer feel real Their stories of bravery of courage of fear rise up off the pages leaving the reader with a real sense of the heightened emotions experiencedHazel Gaynor has written a truly compelling and emotive tale one that will remain in my heart and mind for uite some time It is a book that sent me off researching the stories of the admirable people who lived through these terrible and frightening days which is always the sign of an exceptional read “I hope that by writing this relatively unknown story of World War II and by following in the footsteps of the remarkable girls and boys women and men who lived through those years that their experience will become widely known and their story will live onWe owe them all an enormous debt of gratitude”– Hazel GaynorThe Bird in the Bamboo Cage is a story of anguish and pain of sadness and despair of endurance of resilience and of hope It is a very affecting read recounting a remarkable and shocking period of history Hazel Gaynor writes historical fiction that completely captures the readers imagination really guaranteeing that The Bird in the Bamboo Cage will be another sure fire bestseller on release Pre order it folks You will not regret it


  9. says:

    Hazel Gaynor has taken a uniue slant on Second World War fiction with her latest novel The Bird in the Bamboo Cage It was inspired by true events which took place following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor As with all her books the factual subject matter gives the story depth authenticity and realismThe story begins at the China Inland Mission School Chefoo in the Shantung Province and is told from the perspectives of ten year old Nancy a pupil at the school and Elspeth Kent one of the teachers This dual outlook from the two different ages works extremely well fleshing out the characters even and adding detailIt’s December 1941 The Japanese soldiers were already occupying Chefoo but following their declaration of war against America and Britain they arrived in force to take over the school Lives were about to change drastically for over one hundred children and twelve staff not to mention the Chinese staff at the schoolNot too long afterwards the staff and pupils were moved to another location in Chefoo where they tried to make the best of things Just as they had managed to make the abandoned compound habitable and settled down to some semblance of normal life they were moved again This time to Weihsien internment camp They were going to need courage and most of all each other if they were to survive being seen as the enemy and enduring unimaginable hardships throughout the dark days of internmentI love Hazel Gaynor’s wonderful storytelling and have enjoyed each book I’ve read The Bird in the Bamboo Cage is no exception It’s an evocatively poignant and compelling insight into a horrific period of history that encompasses many emotions including fear sorrow despair brutality hope and kindness The teachers went to great lengths to put the children’s needs first and keep their spirits up as the years passed despite their own suffering It was incredible how they coped with the privations of being prisoners of war and the courage and strength shown by both teachers children and the other prisonersA beautifully crafted and memorable story beginning and concluding with Nancy Characters are well defined and realistic it’s written with sensitivity and a deep understanding of events Hazel Gaynor has done what she set out to do and brought a lesser known time in history to the forefront The author’s note about the inspiration and research is well worth reading too


  10. says:

    This beautiful book will be in my thoughts for some time This is a historical fictional novel wrote from the viewpoints of Nancy Plum a young girl and Elspeth Kent Miss Kent one of the teachers from the Chinese missionary Both characters along with many students and a handful of teachers are in a missionary school when Japan invade China during World War IIWe hear the story of their internment in Weihsein camp and their six year nightmare while they are subject to the horrors of the JapaneseThe story all too familiar in war talks about selflessness fear hunger uncertainty brutality and deathYet at the same time friendship loyalty and huge accounts of braveryHazel Gaynor has brought this piece of sad history together and we see what life was like for children in the camps and the teachers needing to be their protectors stand in parents and instructing them on how to be young adults as events unfold and emotions run wildChildren missing their parents homes affection life’s necessities and the teachers battling daily to educate and care and keep the daily motivations goingThe young girls and Nancy followed the Brownies and Girl Guides principles of trustworthiness loyalty and to be helpful and kind at all times handbooks were read and badges awarded and gave a purpose and structure and a much needed distraction from the hours of hell around themThe bravery and courage everyone showed made me swell with pride and it touched my heart in so many waysOften when we read World War II books they are usually around the horrors of France Germany and the concentration camps The Chefoo teachers were incredibly brave and innovative truly resourceful in keeping the children’s spirits upTheir determination to keep going months after VE Day was celebrated for the end of war in Europe when the war still raged with Japan was staggeringAs Hazel Gaynor says at the end of her book “I hope we will keep discovering; writing reading and sharing these storiesThey are part of our pasts and we must never forget them”Thank you Netgalley and Harperfictionpr for this remarkable book