Three Came Home – by Agnes Newton Keith (1947)

Three Came Home

There have been so many books written about World War II and prisoners of war, most often from a male point of view. This book shows the POW experience from the point of view of a woman and her child. Agnes was an American, married to a British citizen who was serving as a Director Of Agriculture in north Borneo. They naively believed that they were safe there. By the time it was obvious that they were in danger, it was too late to leave. Agnes, her husband Harry, and their pre-school son George were held in prison camps by the Japanese until they were liberated by the Australians.

Agnes was a talented writer before captivity, and was actually ordered by the Japanese to write a book about how well the prisoners of war were being treated. She reluctantly complied, but secretly kept notes on daily life so that she could later write the real story of life in captivity.

The parts I found most interesting were: how the Japanese treated the children, the way the women depended on each other, the role of the nuns imprisoned with them, the elaborate smuggling system, and the role of Col. Suga.

The book was recorded on cassette tapes in 1989, and read by Lois Betterton, whose voice was just right for the narration. Unfortunately, it was never converted over to CD or MP3, so it is next to impossible to get that excellent audio version of the story now.

Excerpt from the introduction:

I have written this book for three reasons:

For horror of war. I want others to shudder with me at it.

For affection for my husband. When war nearly killed me, knowledge of our love kept me alive.

And for a reminder to my son. I fought one war for him in prison camp. He survives because of me. He belongs now to peace. I remind him that it is better to give more and to have less – and to keep the peace – than to fight.

The Japanese in this book are as war made them, not as God did, and the same is true of the rest of us. We are not pleasant people here, for the story of war is always the story of hate; it makes no difference with whom one fights. The hate destroys you spiritually as the fighting destroys you bodily.

Author: alwaysreading1

I'm just a person with an intense love for reading!

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