On the edge of a small Australian town, far from the battlefields of the Second World War, a camp holds thousands of Japanese, Italian and Korean prisoners of war. The locals are unsure how to treat the 'enemy', though Alice Herman, whose young husband is himself a prisoner in Europe, becomes drawn to the Italian soldier sent to work on her father-in-law's farm. The camp commander and his deputy, each concealing a troubled private life, are disunited. And both fatally misread their Japanese captives, who burn with shame at being taken alive. The stage is set for a clash of cultures that has explosive, far-reaching consequences.
As he states in his introduction: Fiction has always tried to tell the truth by telling lies. On the evidence of this book, and at seventy-eight years of age, Keneally remains one of the most compelling liars on the planet. * Guardian * A tremendously accomplished novel, rich in character, detail and incident. It is the work of a master novelist * Sunday Business Post, Ireland * Shame and the Captives suggests that Keneally's late period is as rich as any other in his fifty-year career . . . Keneally's elegant classicism miniaturises grand narratives - here the war in the Pacific - without sacrificing subtlety . . . Shame and the Captives is sobering, horrifying, humane and even strangely uplifting. * Literary Review * Readers wondering whether there is anything new to be said about the world wars of the twentieth century can pick up one of Keneally's books for a renewed sense of how it felt to live through those terrifying times . . . [he] makes the reader sympathise with the mindset of the prisoners, having rooted out yet another unfamiliar and powerful example of the madness of war. * Sunday Express * Keneally's fine novel gives us insight into how, over time (as in Australia itself), imprisonment, even brutal imprisonment, can evolve into something worthy of the human race. * The Times * A story very suited to Keneally's talent for letting his imagination play on real-life events. The narrative is gripping, slow-moving but absorbing for the first half and more of the novel, then fast-moving, exciting and appalling. * Scotsman * His writing is remarkably evocative, whether he is describing everyday occurrences or characters . . . we gain an insight into the minds of the Japanese so even if we don't empathise with their desire for a glorious death, we can comprehend it. * Independent on Sunday * Keneally skilfully weighs broad cultural questions against the concerns of the soldiers and community . . . In a supremely dramatic ending, it is impossible to guess the fate of any of the characters. * Mail on Sunday *