Publication date: 30/3/2021
A story of friendship and resilience
Burma, 1945. Five young women joined the Women’s Auxiliary Service. They are attached to the Fourteenth Army, assigned to run a mobile canteen in support of the Burma Campaign of the Second World War. Bea, Plum, Bubbles, Joy and Lucy were in search of adventure, keen to do their bit to support those involved in what has often been referred to as ‘The Forgotten War’.
Oxford, 1976. A woman steals several rare Japanese netsuke from a collection in a museum. Although a considerable reward is offered, the tiny exquisitely carved netsuke are not seen again.
London and Galway, 1999. Olivia, an assistant to an art dealer, meets Beatrix. Beatrix wishes to sell her late husband’s collection of Japanese art. Olivia falls ill while visiting Beatrix and ends up accompanying her to a New Year’s Eve party, a reunion between the women who worked together in Burma.
But over fifty years have elapsed since the women worked together, and there are secrets that threaten their friendship.
Until I read this book, I knew nothing about the Women’s Auxiliary Service (Burma) and the role played by the women who served the war effort by running canteens to serve the Allied troops during the Burma campaign. Ms Nunn’s book took me into that world, with the hardships of service in the jungle not far from enemy lines and the power of friendship. And weaving between the friendships and the events of 1945 and 1999, is the story of a particular netsuke. The netsuke itself is important both as a hand carved Japanese artefact and because of its story, its journey.
I enjoyed this wonderful story of friendship and resilience. This is the fourth of Ms Nunn’s novels I have read, and I have enjoyed (and learned from) each one.
Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Hachette Australia for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.