Thursday, January 15, 2015

Book Review: Remember the Lilies by Liz Tolsma

If you've read many of my reviews you know that my favorite period of history to read about is World War II.  It seems like there are many more stories written about the battles in Europe than those is other parts of the world, like the Philippines.  I recently read and reviewed this book about the cruelty of the Japanese in the Dutch East Indies, and I really learned a lot of things I didn't know from it.  I can only think of one other book that I've read that chronicled the fighting in the Philippine islands, but it was more from the standpoint of a soldier than actual residents.  I have to say that I had no idea these things happened, and I found it heartbreaking to learn what so many people lived through during those times.   
This book is about Irene and Rand.  They're both Americans living in Manilla in the early 1940s, but they lead very different lives.  Rand is a wealthy nightclub owner who hobnobs with the elite, while Irene is a missionary who travels into the jungle to lead poor natives to Christ.  However, when the Japanese take over the island, both Irene and Rand are place in an internment camp.  They are thrown together when Irene tries to prevent Rand from attempting escape.  She fails in her mission and he's taken away to prison.  They are brought together again in a hospital where Rand is a patient and Irene is visiting her sick aunt.  They form a friendship, and even begin to fall in love.  Irene tries to pull away, however, when her aunt warns her of the danger of falling for a non-Christian.  Then along comes Frank Covey, who's determined to blackmail Rand into giving him partial ownership in his clubs after the war is over.  He'll stop at nothing to get what he wants, even if that means blackmailing Irene, too.  As the American troops draw closer to the gates, and Rand and Irene's secrets are exposed, Irene must decide if she's willing to trust the love that she and Rand have found, or if she'll turn it away.  And Rand must learn to forgive when forgiveness doesn't seem possible.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book, but there were a few things in it that peeved me.  There were several holes in the plot, as well as character flaws throughout the story.  This first was the Japanese soldier, Mr. Tanaka and Mercedes.  I felt like their part in the story was awkward and strange.  It was never fully explained what Mr. Tanaka did and why he did it.  He was there, he was good, he was bad and then he was gone.  I found no rhyme or reason for him, unless it was to add some depth with Mercedes and Irene, which also seem unnecessary.  Then there was the issue of Rand's mysterious release from prison.  The author never really explains why he was released, or what happened to his tormentor.  The language was another problem for me.  I understand it was the forties, but would a wealthy nightclub owner really use phrases like, "That's swell," all the time?  Also, Tessa, the British lady who used the phrase, "bangers and mash" constantly really annoyed me after a while.  I did like that Rand liked to make up little poems on the spot though, and thought that really added some depth to his character.  I was really shocked by the little plot twist at the end, and honestly thought it very unlikely if not impossible that such a thing could occur.  The references to the lilies were a bit to blatant for me, and seemed like they were there just to give the book a title. 
If you read this review, you may think I didn't really like this book much, because I have pointed out a lot of things that I didn't care for.  So I should probably go ahead and tell you that while this book is far from perfect, it's very interesting and I stayed up until 4:00 am one night to finish it.  Liz Tolsma does know how to hold  your interest, even if her plot and character development need a little work. 
I can recommend this book if you like historical fiction and especially if you don't know much about the war with Japan.  You'll find some new knowledge here.  It's an "okay" book overall.

Happy Reading!

I was given an advance copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for my review.  All opinions are my own.  Look for Consider the Lilies on or around February 3, 2015.

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