Okay – I know Bryce Courtenay is not known for his literary word-smithery, but I listened to The Potato Factory by Courtenay years ago and enjoyed it quite a lot – aside from falling in love with the voice of Humphrey Bower.
The Persimmon Tree follows the lives of Nick Duncan and Ana Van Heerden as they fall in love and get separated by the war. Nick first becomes a seaman taking Ana’s father’s boat to Australia where he becomes a spy. in the war effort. Meanwhile, Ana is trapped in Java. The story spans the time between the fall of Singapore (and the American landings at Guadalcanal) in 1942 to a few months after the end of the war against the Japanese for Pacific supremacy. The setting is the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean, Australia. There are really two stories – Nick’s story and Ana’s story.
The Persimmon Tree
by Bryce Courteney
2007/ 500 pages
read by Humphrey Bower – 27h 56m
rating: 6/10 – historical fiction
Themes of race, love and family are explored but never very deeply, more like commentary on those things.
Courtenay is not what I would call a “good” writer at all – but he tells a good story with well developed characters.
But by the end it was just too long and it got tedious as well as predictable. I’m glad it’s over.
I doubt I’ll read another by him even if his narrator, Humphrey Bower, is so good.
Too bad it wasn’t interesting enough, with that historical setting and area of the world of which so little is known in the West.
There are books which cover that period much, much better – The Gift of Rain and The Garden of Evening Mists both by Tan Twan Eng, Singapore Grip by J.G. Farrell, A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute – there’s another important one I just cannot remember the name of at the moment – and Lord Jim, actually – lol.