3 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

The history of the of the decisive battles, the crucial moments that led to the defeat of the Axis powers in the Second World War is really well documented now. What is starting to emerge though is the personal family stories, the individuals who in their own way contributed or played some part in the global conflict.

Hamish Brown was born shortly before the war in Colombo, Ceylon, now Sri Lanka before moving to Japan. He was still living there with his parents when war erupted in the far east placing the family in danger. This book tells of the story of their time there and the journey that they made from Japan to Singapore via China and the Philippines when they had to flee. There is also an account of his fathers escape from Singapore to safety

The books is a combination of his recollections from that time and selected letters from his mother that were sent to his grandmother who was still living in Scotland. They were custodians of his eldest brother, Ian, who was at school near where they lived. His mother wrote to Ian regularly too, and there were brief annotations from his father on the back of them.

The letters add that insight and personal touch to a war that killed so many. They are almost always positive and upbeat, the British ‘stiff upper lip’ belies the truth of how much peril they were really in. East of West, West of East is in the same vein as Dadland and Stranger in my Heart, both of which tell the stories of their fathers who had significant involvement in World War 2. This is different as we are hearing about a family affected by the War in the Far East and their passage to a safer place, but the letters give it a real-time feel to the events.

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