If I were to put Thief of Glory into a category, it would go into one called, "Most Eye-Opening Books I've Ever Read." My favorite period of history to read about is World War II, but I literally had no idea that the atrocities written about in this book ever happened. This is the story of Jeremiah Prins and his family. His father was a schoolmaster in the Dutch East Indies when the Japanese attacked. First, the Japanese soldiers took all of the Dutch men and older boys and away from their families. They were forced to work in mines and put in prison camps. Eventually, the woman and children were driven from their homes and placed in camps, known as "Japenkamps," for the duration of the war. Before Jeremiah's father and three older brothers were taken away, he left Jeremiah in charge of caring for his mother, two younger sisters, and younger brother. Even though he knew that his ten-year-old son would go to great lengths to protect the little family, he couldn't have known the terrible things Jeremiah would have to suffer and endure for them. Jeremiah's mother, Elsbeth Prins, was a weak woman, with mental issues, but the Japenkamp brought out an inner strength in her that the children had never seen before. Jeremiah was surprised that his mother became a fighter for her children and their safety, but he could never have dreamed what the hardships of the camp, and the cruelty of the Japanese soldiers would drive them all to do.
This book drove me to tears more than once. Reading the stories of those brave Dutch women and how they stood up to their captors and tormentors on behalf their children was almost more than my mother heart could bear. To read about Jeremiah, Laura and the other children in the camp and how their childhood was stolen from them was heartbreaking. But I was also amazed at the daring and tenacity of those women and children. Even during beatings and torture they wouldn't cry or show weakness--never wanting the Japanese soldiers to conquer their independent spirits. I've read a lot of books about the cruelty of the Germans and their concentration camps, but this was the first I read about the wicked Japanese and their Japenkamps.
This book was wonderful, interesting and enlightening. It really taught me things about this period of history that I never knew before. The story itself was great, but the writing style nearly drove me crazy at times. This book is written in first-person voice, and is meant to be a series of journals written by the author to his daughter, to be read after his death. But, because of this, the author changes tenses so many times, and "chases rabbits," so often that it was sometimes hard to read. Too many times he uses phrases like, "I had no idea then how those words would come back to haunt me." In one part of the book a young boy grabs a piece of rebar to use as a weapon in a fight, leading to a dissertation about how rebar is made and it's purpose in the foundations of buildings. This happened early in the book, and I nearly gave it up right then...I'm very glad I kept reading, though! If you find the first few chapters difficult to read, just keep going. I promise that it gets better.
Even though this is Jeremiah Prins telling the story of his life, and you think you know it all just as it happened, there is a major twist at the very end that I promise will leave you shocked. You won't be disappointed in this one!!
Happy Reading (and learning!)
I was given a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange fore my review. All opinions are my own.