In war, you can pretend to be someone you’re not. Yet, in war, people find out who you really are.
Hong Kong, 1941. Anglo-Australian civil servant Dominic Sotherly’s colonial sojourn in Hong Kong becomes complicated by his double life in both war and love. Enigmatic Englishwoman Gwen Harmison possesses secrets of her own – plus an unrelenting desire for liberty.
From gaiety at the Peninsula Hotel to persecution both inside and outside of internment, the story journeys from war-ravaged Hong Kong to war-weary China.
From real history, meet the Chinese admiral who led Hong Kong’s daring ‘Great Escape’ and the Japanese Christian soldier who risked his life for the enemy. And, uniquely during the occupation of Hong Kong, discover how one Englishwoman made history in her defiance of Imperial Japan.
The Slightest Chance is an informative account of WW2 in the Far East. I commend Paul on his excellent research, because there is never a moment that you would pull you out of the story.
You encounter the might of the Japanese Army throughout this novel and the effect it had on Westerners living in Shanghai and Hong Kong and how they practically had to flee. You get the feeling of the Chinese’s anger towards the Japanese, considering that this was WW2 at the time. No one is innocent, no one is guilty. I was watching a great Clint Eastwood movie called Letters from Iwo Jima, showing from the Japanese point of view. World War II was for me an imperialistic war in all sense. Because had the German High Command removed Hitler, I have no doubt that they would continue the war or sue for peace. Paul rightly showed how Indian troops were fighting against the Japanese when truly there was not a real reason to fight. Not many know this but the Japanese often tried to convert Indian soldiers to their side through propaganda. It is a relatively under-explored area of history that no doubt will get more attention in the future. What is war but the friend of no one but itself?
I did feel Max was a sort of serious character that needed a bit more grittiness to me. I also felt that Gwen needed a more better reason to be in China when the Japanese invaded Hong Kong. I also did get the impression that Japanese rule for the former ‘colonial’ masters was not great.
Quite often, I did feel there were too many POVs, though my favourite character was Admiral Chan. He’s really a small man with a lot of hope against the might of Imperial Japan. That’s like David and Goliath. I think Paul did a great job with the research, and I was exposed to how truly globalised China and South-East Asia was. Did racism, discrimination exist? But to see Indians, Malays, Chinese and Japanese all in one place was staggering. I will also commend Paul for showing Indian soldiers in combat even if we didn’t get to see them do much, but the British Army did depend on a lot of Indian soldiers to fight their wars. Indians were fighting in Africa, Mesopotamia, and the Far East. Indians were taking the brunt of the Japanese Army, not to mention the fearsome Gurkhas. Not many know that Dunkirk, which had Indian soldiers in combat at that time, was not represented in the film. I do feel that Indian representation is severely under-rated. They were essentially fighting a war that at their point of view, what was the point? But it was imperative to do so, otherwise the plans the Axis Powers had for India would have been much much worse than any Allied occupation. It was clear at that time India was going to achieve independence in some form of fashion. Paul did a great job showing this.
I would have wanted to seen more scenes of Westerners opposing the massacres that the Japanese did. I would have imagined some Westerners would have protested to the command. But the command would have done nothing. If you read about the Japanese invasion of Korea in 1592, and then in 1894 of the Peasants Rebellion, it was pretty much the same thing they had been doing then. It was no wonder the Koreans were fighting against Imperialistic Japanese rule.
I liked Chester Drake and his motivations, but this war was truly happening on a global scale. I’m thinking just how many people there were like Max, Gwen, and Chester out there. All in the hopes of escaping fanatic armies, and finding love and loss together. It must have felt like the End times.
Reading this novel has made evoke many parts o history that I have read and I feel this is a great novel. My rec is 5/5