Cover Image: The Bird in the Bamboo Cage

The Bird in the Bamboo Cage

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Member Reviews

This is a story that I was not aware of, but it makes sense and I don't know why it surprised me. When the US and Britain declare war on Japan, any citizens from those countries, including the British Commonwealth who are living in China are now prisoners of Japan, the country who has taken control. The students and the teachers of Cheefoo missionary school are first kept at the school, but throughout the story get moved to other camps. This is the story of one of the teachers and students.

This is historical fiction at its best. The story is narrated from two POVs, that of Elspeth Kent a teacher who is preparing to return to England to help with the war effort when the school becomes their prison. The second is ten year old Nancy Plummer (aka Plum). Plum and her friends Dorothy (Sprout) and Joan (Mouse) are students at the Chefoo Missionary School, they have always felt safe, secure and been well looked after. Suddenly the children and staff are cut off from their loved ones and the outside world by the Japanese army. The girls look to their teachers and their training as Girl Guides to get them through this terrible time. Although not physically abused or punished, the children deal with lack of food, poor weather, oppression, disease and seeing things that children that age should not have to see. This book is based on true events and that realism is there in this story. My heart broke for these teachers and students who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

There were so many themes in this book, courage, strength, and determination to survive. The Brownies and Girl Guide theme is original and refreshing as it demonstrates its importance to the young girls who were facing unspeakable events. I know that guiding is not as big an organization today as in the past, but perhaps this book might bring it back to the forefront showing the values it helps young girls develop. This book shows the strength of the human spirit, the strong bond and trust formed between teachers and students, and the importance of lifelong friendship. Hazel Gaynor’s books do not disappoint with her attention to detail as well as her thorough research which shines through. I could feel the pain and heartbreak of these characters, see the environment, and hear the cries of the prisoners and farmers. This is definitely a five star read for me, one that I certainly recommend to those who enjoy Historical Fiction.
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A well-written and inspiring piece of historical fiction I would definitely recommend. I shall certainly seek out more from this author.
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This is a fabulous book.

It is a powerful story about war and the impact it has on innocent children, it showed me a side of the war that I hadn't considered and kept me hanging on at every twist and turn of the plot. 
I loved that the book carried on the story after the war and didn't stop at liberation.

I think that this book would be of interest to everyone, it is well written and the author is amazing at keeping the audience engaged.
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Its always interesting to see what an author will do with a novel based on true events and characters. Of course you never know how true to events they maybe and what artistic licence the author will take, but to me that didnt matter, what I wanted was a good story with characters that I could connect with and I wasn’t disappointed.

The premise of a boarding school in China for children of diplomats, missionaries and business people was not something I had necessarily associated with World War II. The invasion by the Japanese and their subsequent imprisonment proved mesmerising, sad, but also humbling, as Gaynor used the voices of Nancy, one of the students and her teacher Elspeth to relate a wonderful story.

Most novels concentrate on the barbaric aspect of war time internment, and yes, Gaynor touched on this, the rape of women, the reprisals for those that disobeyed but what was refreshing was the more human angle she took, the techniques and sheer guts and determination Nancy and Elspeth used to stay alive and maintain some sense of optimism

You couldn’t help but feel huge empathy for Nancy, separated from her mother, the prospect of many more months, years with no contact, but Gaynor didn’t drown her in self pity. From somewhere deep inside she gave her a deep resolve and an inner strength that forced her to get out of bed each day and make the most of what she had. Her friendships, particularly with Dorothy and Mouse were endearing, and the indomitable Mrs T provided sparks of joy in what could have been a very bleak narrative. Indeed Mrs T was one of my favourite characters, her subversive actions under the guise of a library showed the bravery and risks many took to make life just that little bit more bearable.

Elsbeth, their teacher, was in fact the heroine of the novel, the onset of war an obstacle that prevented her flight back to England. Gaynor showed us a woman who had immeasurable energy, strength and resolve. Her selflessness, her need to protect her students as she gave them structure, a purpose was astounding. Her lapses in confidence, in stamina were always momentary, before a friend or her inner voice spoke to her, and urged her onward

The Girl Guiding movement played a huge part, the badge challenges, the skills it asked of its participants the ultimate force that pushed the girls, gave life a meaning and an ingenious tool used by Elspeth.

Gaynor, intertwined the fate of the local Chinese, their fear but also bravery as they assisted the interned. The soldiers that guarded them a mix of the good and the bad, feared by their prisoners.

You got a huge feel for the sapping heat in the summer, the biting chill of the winters, the illness that plagued their malnourished and ravaged bodies. You wondered how they survived, where they found the resolve and stoicism to endure.

I loved that Gaynor don’t drag the novel down with endless misery, and gloom, but injected moments of joy, of love and more importantly friendship. They were friendships that endured time and life and I would have been so cross if Gaynor had not included an epilogue!

The Bird In The Bamboo Cage was a refreshing change in the swathe of novels set in World War II. It was entertaining, educational, fascinating and a wonderful read.
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3.5 stars

I really liked the overall story being told in this novel, but I thought it was a little underdeveloped in some places, skimming over some rather traumatic events. 

The characters were interesting, but also could have done with a little more development. 

Still, it was a really interesting story that shed a light on some less known events of WWII.
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Set in China during the Japanese occupation in World War 2, we follow the experience of a teacher and a pupil in a missionary school in the events that unfold as their school is taken over by the Japanese and their days of schoolwork and living away from home and earning their Brownie badges become the making of them in the hardest of situations. A beautifully written book that had me fully absorbed in their experiences and moved me to tears. . Thank you to Netgalley and Harper Collins UK, Harperfiction for the ARC.
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I thought this sounded good going in, but had no idea how quickly I’d fall in love with these brave girls and their struggles. The fact that it is based on true events makes it all the more poignant and it’s heart wrenching to think about what they suffered through. I think it was also particularly important to me because I fell we learn and hear so much about Germany’s atrocities during WW2 but less so for Japan, despite being located in Australia where we are actually closer to and were more directly impacted by Japan.
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Beautifully written historical fiction. Moving, heartbreaking and heartwarming. A piece of history I didn't have much knowledge of. It must have been such a scary time particularly for children and parents separated from them. A wonderful read.
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I have had this in my to read pile for too long, but glad I finally read it!

The Bird in the Bamboo Cage covers the journey of a teach and her pupils- particularly one called Nancy,. they are in school in China during pearl harbour. The Japanese take over the school and treat the students and the school as a concentration camp.

The main characters in the book are well written and likeable as a result which makes it easy to keep on reading.

Although it is historical fiction you don't learn much about the area, or time, but it did make me aware of the Schools situation which I would have never considered before.
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What an engrossing story this is if you’re looking for a world to lose yourself in, a world more horrific and frightening than we can ever imagine. A war story that is at times both traumatic and heart-warming, ‘The Bird in the Bamboo Cage’ by Hazel Gaynor tells the story of a teacher and pupil interned in China during World War Two, a story often forgotten and seldom told.
Based on the true story of a real school – the China Inland Mission’s Chefoo School in Yantai, Shandong province in northern China – as the Japanese army invades and school life is changed overnight. Gaynor tells her fictionalised story through the viewpoints of teacher Elspeth Kent and pupil Nancy ‘Plum’ Plummer. Elspeth is struggling to write a letter of resignation, intending to return home and join the war effort, when war arrives at the school gates. At first Chefoo School proudly continues to operate under armed guard but after the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbour in December 1941 and the entry of America into the war, the school is moved to Temple Hill internment camp and later to Weihsien. At each step, privations, hardships, hunger, threat and sexual exploitation threaten teachers, pupils and the wider camp community. 
Elspeth and Plum offer different perspectives on what is happening and we see the growing friendship and respect between the two women, because Plum starts off a child and grows as a woman unable to remember her mother, unsure if she will ever see her parents again. The teachers truly are ‘in loco parentis’ when the school is relocated and the children learn to support each other, to endure hardship by recognising there is always someone worse off than you and that everyone is a person in their own right [pupils, teachers, guards, fellow internees, night soil women] with their own hopes, dreams and fears. They face hunger, theft and personal attack. Gaynor portrays the school’s protestant ethic with a light hand, instead making Elspeth Brown Owl of Chefoo’s Guides and using the Girl Guide Handbook’s mottos as a thematic skeleton. For each new challenge they meet there is a guiding motto to help them face what must be done.
I am not a lover of all ends being neatly tied and certainly this book is not perfect – chunks of time pass in brief summary paragraphs and at times the action seems delayed with detail of the school day – but Gaynor has created a world of prisoners and enemy that made me want to read on. Of course, we know how the war ended but we so want to know what happens to each pupil and teacher. 
Essentially this is a novel about the strength and value of friendship and loyalty, the love that binds people together and enables them to survive horrific situations.
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This was a wonderful book for which I have nothing but praise. It’s touching, riveting and has such wonderful characters. A well written book portraying the difficult times in an internment camp under Japanese rule during WW2 for women and children.
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As a Stalwart fan of Hazel Gaynor having avidly devoured her last two books, both different which makes Hazel one  of my Go To when it comes to Historical Fiction.

My  Devotion is not misplaced  as this was a wonderful story of pluck and resilience in an area of the war I had rather naively not even considered . Just a wee bit to young to have fully grasped the story behind the 80s favourite in my House, I had a vague awareness of the plight of women in South East Asia during Japanese occupation but had not extrapolated that against  children.

There is a definite feeling  of place in this moving and revealing  account of life as Prisoners of war.  The Girl guiding movement  proves the backbone for a survival structure for these children and their teachers .  I  found the story clipped along at a good pace despite the slowing of life inherent in a  enforced internment where danger and deprivation run concurrently. I enjoyed the (on the whole) dual voices here and I enjoyed the themic follow through of the sunflowers - a plant I too have an affinity with.

A truthful, moving but uplifting tale with a fitting ending that kept me gripped from start to finish.
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I have nothing but praise for The Bird in the Bamboo Cage. It’s my favourite read of 2020. It’s a wonderful read, emotive and completely engaging with its dramatic moments and appealing characters. I have no hesitation in recommending this book. I’m grateful to Netgalley, Harper Collins and the author Gaynor for a digital copy in exchange for my honest review, Side note - having read the book I also purchased the audiobook and it is very well narrated and every bit as hood as the book. Do check either, or both, out!
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A lovely little read of historical fiction. Nicely written and an interesting period of history. Would be interested to read the next book from this author.
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I love a good historical fiction novel and The Bird in the Bamboo Cage hit all the right notes for me as I can find some of these books quite hit and miss either being too bogged down with detail or too depressing.    This book had the perfect mixture of hope and despair that kept me reeled in until the very end. 

Set in China in 1941 just after the Pearl Harbour bombings we meet our two main characters Nancy and Elspeth.  Nancy is a pupil of the Chefoo missionary school and Elspeth a member of the teaching staff and we get to experience their take on the Japenese takeover of their school and everything that they have ever known during a very tumulteous time.  

The chapters of this book alternate between Elspeth and Nancy throughout and takes us right through to their school being over, to being moved on to ending up effectively in a Japanese concentration camp.  

What I liked about the book, as previously mentioned, was the mixture of hope and despair that both Nancy and Elspeth encountered.  There were some truly heartbreaking moments particuarly relating to 'Trouble' and Sprout and then some moments of pure joy and celebration for the girls.  

I found that I was compelled to read on and it was never a chore.  This is a truly fantastic piece of historical fiction that is based on fact and I would highly recommend, particularly as the Japanese side of WW2 is something that I've never really read into.  

Fantastic, I can't wait for more.
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The Bird in the Bamboo Cage by    Hazel Gaynor 

I’ve read a lot of books set in WW2 but most of them have been set in England and focused on the blitz. Set in Northern China this book tells the story of the Japanese invasion told through the eyes of a school teacher and some of her young students. 
This story is narrated by Elspeth Kent the teacher and Nancy Plummer the student. Each chapter is told alternately through their perspectives. Miss Kent steps up to the task of protecting the children as much as she can and by incorporating the Girl Guides into their lives she manages to give them a sense of unity and pride. This book brings to life a terrible time in history but manages to educate and entertain at the same time. A fantastic book. I loved it. 

Thank you #NetGalley #HarperCollinsUK #HarperFiction  #TheBirdintheBambooCage
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I really enjoyed The Bird in the Bamboo Cage by Hazel Gaynor. I raced through it. After just a few pages I was truly invested in the characters and really did not want to put it down. Elspeth and Nancy were such great characters. I loved both and still think of them fondly Elspeth showed such strength of character, such determination in the face of adversity. World War two destroyed many nations and it left its mark on China like it did in many other nations. Both children and adults alike faced hardship and degradation as is clearly portrayed in the pages of this novel. It's a great read and is one I will not forget for a long time to come. It was well written, obviously very well planned, realistic throughout and not at all overly sentimental. It really came as a well completed final package.
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A beautifully written book so well written.Emotional moving a story you will not forget.Characters a student and her teacher a very special relationship under difficult circumstances.An authors will be following,#netgalley#harpercollinsuk
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Wow!! This is a book that I find myself unable to stop thinking about since finishing it.

It's a historical story told from 2 viewpoints - one of a child, one of a teacher - living through extraordinary times in China during the Second World War and the impact that has on their school when it is taken over by the Japanese. Seeing how it impacts on people of different ages was a fascinating insight on how we all deal with traumatic events differently - how our thought processes work when faced with an extreme situation and how we can often appear to put on a brave face but when we're alone it's a different story. And that dilemma is what faces Elspeth, the teacher, as she tries to remain stoic in front of the children she is in charge of, whilst facing her own heartache and despair at the situation unfolding around her.

Elspeth works at a missionary school in China, where Nancy is a pupil. The girls and teachers become family as they spend so much time together, and the teachers become surrogate parents to the girls who are away from their own families for such a long time. But their calm and secure little school is soon to become a scary place when Japanese soldiers come in and take over, and they all soon find themselves sent off to camp, fearful of what conditions and treatment they are all to face.

What I loved about the different viewpoints was how they had different ways of looking at their experiences - the teachers would be very cynical and see things for how they actually were, whilst the children would block out the worst and come up with nicknames for the soldiers. They would just be kids! But what brought them all together is their shared hope in the smallest things around them - the sight of a sunflower seed growing amidst the chaos would begin to mean so much to them all.

Despite the awful conditions they often found themselves facing, what I admired most was their resilience. The fact that they never gave up hope that things would get better for all of them. And the fact that life carried on whilst they were there - the teachers would hope to distract the girls with different lessons, whilst also helping them through changing times both in the world and in their own bodies.

The treatment by the soldiers was often horrific and graphic and just shows what kind of things everyone had to endure and really brought home how brave these prisoners were. It was the little moments of hope, friendship and determination that made them stronger and united them all in a way that few of us could imagine. They say the worst of times brings out the best in some people and that is so true for these teachers and pupils.

An emotional and stunning story. Highly recommended!!
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Thank you to Netgalley,  Harper Collins and Hazel Gaynor for this e-copy in return for my honest review.  Beautifully written story about love blossoming in the most horrid conditions. Emotional and haunting.
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