This is a true story. Eric grows up in Scotland with a love of railways. By a series of seemingly chance events and decisions he is Singapore at the time of the British military’s most embarrassing failure. And so he becomes a prisoner of war – building a railway for the Japanese in Burma/Siam. Life under the Japanese was harsh in the extreme. It’s estimated 1 person died for every meter of track laid. Being caught doing something you shouldn’t (in the eyes of the captors, at least) turns events even worse.

The memories of beatings and torture are told without flinching. Life in prison, and what people do to survive, is something that perhaps from my upbringing my imagination probably can’t fully comprehend. Though I totally get what it’s like to come back and not being able to tell of what you have witnessed – some years ago I was a production manager when one of the people on site made a mistake and an explosion followed. The way I locked up on saying anything when I got home in the evenings for weeks after was unassailable. ‘Unable to speak’ was exactly that. Not a choice. Unable. So Eric’s cold distance on returning to Britain, and his hatred for the Japanese, and in particular the interpreter during torture interrogation interviews, is very understandable.

This is a book in 4 parts; growing up, the war years, returning, and…reconciliation. An incredible story. Not simply keeping the wit and will to live during extraordinary deprivations, but how Eric moves from years of festering desire to kill the interpreter, to a deeply moving relationship with him.

If you ever doubted man’s ability to commit unspeakable evil, and also to forgive, repent, transcend, then read this.