Friday, 17 April 2020

Perils And Pearls by Hulda Bachman-Neeb + #Giveaway

Perils And Pearls by Hulda Bachman-Neeb
Published in the USA by BristleCone Press in September 2019.

P for my 2020 Alphabet Soup Challenge

In World War II much of Asia fell under Japanese control after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. All non-Asians were imprisoned in concentration camps until August of 1945, the end of the war in the Pacific. This is the story of a Dutch family, resident in the Dutch East Indies, that fell victim to the Japanese occupation and was interned in jungle camps throughout the war. It tells the journey from riches to rags, from fear and suffering, to the joy of freedom and recovery.

Perils And Pearls tells the story of a colonial Dutch family from their earliest incursions into Indonesia until their eventual return to the Netherlands at Indonesian independence. The book starts with a family history of the men, who were mostly military doctors, going back as far as the 1600s and 1700s when the Dutch nation exported many of its people under the auspices of the Dutch East Indies Company. The Dutch history in east Asia at this time and on through the Victorian era shares similarities with British empire building so I recognised a lot of the scenarios although I did at times struggle to remember who was who of Bachman-Neeb's ancestors because we jump from one to another and their careers often follow the same trajectories!

Once we meet Bachman-Neeb's immediate family in the 1930s, the pace slows so I could begin to get a better idea of individual people. Unfortunately the focus is on the white Dutch so we don't learn the fate (or even the names) of the family's native Indonesian servants, but we do get clearly described insights into how European women and their children fared during the Japanese wartime occupation. I liked how Perils And Pearls filled out another aspect of Second World War Asia for me alongside novels such as How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee and The Narrow Road To The Deep North by Richard Flanagan, and nonfiction works such as The Rape Of Nanking by Iris Chang.

Perils And Pearls felt as though it had three distinct sections, each written in a different style, which was a little disconcerting. Bachman-Neeb herself was too young to have first-hand recollections of much of what happened in the camps so this memoir recounts her mother's memories, as well as an account of her father's escape to Australia on a leaking old boat. The initial history was rather dry and the boat journey to Australia is in a factual, masculine voice, gleaned from the father's diaries written more-or-less at the time so, for me, it wasn't until Bachman-Neeb's own memories began to coalesce with those of her mother that the memoir really developed a sense of personal depth. I can't begin to imagine how people survived these circumstances (while, of course, many didn't) or how they managed to overcome the resulting trauma in the decades that followed.

Meet the author:
Hulda Bachman–Neeb was born in Indonesia of colonial Dutch parentage two years before the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941. Because much of Asia fell under Japanese control, all non-Asians were imprisoned in concentration camps until August of 1945, the end of the war in the Pacific. As a member of the Dutch Foreign Service in her adult life, Hulda held assignments in twenty-five countries over a period of thirty-six years, retiring in 1996. She is married to an American, James Bachman, a historian and author, and has dual citizenship. Hulda and her husband live in Estes Park, Colorado.

Connect with the author:
Website  ~ Facebook ~ Twitter

Enter the Giveaway!  

Win 1 of 4x $25 Amazon Gift Cards courtesy of Hulda Bachman-Neeb, author of Perils And Pearls
(open Internationally) (4 winners) (ends May 8)

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Books by Hulda Bachman-Neeb / Biography and memoir / Books from the Netherlands

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