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Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Jan Maclure, Escape to Chungking

This book was published early in the war. My reprint is 1942.The copyright libraries indicate a 1942 date for the first edition.The contents deal with the fall of Malaya and Singapore to the Japanese, in 1940. Jan Maclure is an unknown, and produced no other book under this name. She dedicates the book to friends who have not yet got out.
This is a powerful book. A 14 year old boy discovers that his mother is party to hidden military secrets in Japan, just entering into the second world war. The boy finds his mother's friend nearly dead after trying to take secrets to the British and is handed a package before the friend dies. He takes this on a long journey from Japan to Chungking in China where the British still ruled, mainly to carry the formula for a new kind of explosive.

The boy, Christopher or Kit, is on the run throughout the book. Every safe house has been exposed and the people arrested. Kit changes identity when his friend is killed in a volcanic explosion and he takes over his papers an identity, and he can cross to China as a Korean which he could not have done as English. The detail is accurate throughout, with Jananese language as well as geography. Within China he moved from Cowloon to Chungking pretty quicky, personally shooting down a Jananese fighter in the process when the gunner was injured.

The author clearly knew the far east, and dedicated the book to friends who had not escaped yet. Children who were fluent in English and Japanese must have existed. The ex-pat community in 1939 must have had some difficulties. This book for children brings not much solace, for the Japanese were victors. Some Japanese are nice, but en masse they are bad. This is a clear message. The army was bullied into compliance. Christopher showed that resistence should be to death, and that death was fine so long as it came out of patriotic ethical effort and not from giving up.

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