This book is compiled from letters between members of the Brown family in the Far East, Japan and Malaya, as well as at home in Scotland. The letters paint a very vivid and moving picture of their lives as the war overtook them and irrevocably changed their lives.
Hamish’s father worked in a bank in Japan and he and his wife and children moved several times, often with regret for the people and places they had to leave behind. Life was remarkably stable, or at least the Browns intentionally kept it so, for the sake of their growing family. In spite of the international conflict, and the threat of the Japanese forces moving ever closer, Mrs Brown still attended social gatherings and sewing and knitting groups. Their life was not that of the aristocratic hedonists of the Kenyan Happy Valley set, but quieter and far more modest, and from that point of view less complicated and happier. Mr and Mrs Brown maintained their “stiff upper lip” approach to life and refused to let the dangers that threatened crush their spirit.
Eventually, the children went with their mother to South Africa and so were separated from their father. He endured some quite hair-raising adventures, still stoically trying to safeguard bank records and trying to make sure the employees were paid, before being reunited with his family.
This is a wonderful and uplifting read. It is told in an understated and quiet way, which shows the resilience of the human spirit and how hope can survive in what seems to be a hopeless situation. It would be an excellent choice for reading groups.
Ruth Ginarlis 5/5
East of West, West of East by Hamish Brown
Sandstone Press Ltd 9781912240258 pbk Jul 2018