The Persimmon Tree opens in Indonesia in 1942 on the cusp of Japanese invasion and the evacuation of Batavia (Jakarta) by the Dutch. Seventeen-year-old Nicholas Duncan is on holiday there, in pursuit of an exotic butterfly known as the Magpie Crow. It's an uncertain, dangerous time to be in Indonesia, and Nick's options of getting out are fast dwindling. Amidst the fear and chaos he falls in love with Anna, the beautiful daughter of a Dutch acquaintance, and she nicknames him 'Mr Butterfly'.
To assist in the escape, Anna's father gifts Nick his prized yacht, Vlermuis, to sail to Australia. Singapore has just fallen, the Japanese have made it to Sumatra, and the waters are dangerous. Vlermuis is not long out of Batavia when Nick is forced ashore for repairs. He witnesses the bloody execution of shipwrecked Allied soldiers by natives, and while burying what's left of the bodies, Nick notices one wounded soldier has escaped death, and he carries him back to his yacht.
The rescued soldier is a lower-class Irish Catholic American called Kevin Judge. He has no sailing experience, but he assists Nick in navigating through some dramatic storms and the two form an unlikely and lifelong friendship.
©2007 Bryce Courtenay; (P)2007 Bolinda Publishing
I hear voices. But maybe that's because there's always an Audible book in my ear.
Humphrey Bower is the whole reason this book worked for me. I don't think the storyline would have been nearly as captivating without his skilled narration. This is an excellent use of a credit.
I love most books and I gave this book as much time as I could. I found that this lacked excitment. Even moments that should have been exciting were just really over described. I have never reviewed a book before but I got this on my recomended list so I wanted to let others know that if you like Ken Follet, Dianna Gabledon or you read Shanteram and liked them, this book is not for you!
I wish I like this book more. I purchased both this one and the "Power of One" as they sound perfect for me. Both share many of the same strengths and weaknesses.
The story is well told and cohesive, albeit far-fetched and often over-the-top dependent on coincidence. The narrator presents himself as modest and lucky, but it does not take long to determine that he is a figment of a juvenile imagine. No 17-year-old boy is consistently the sex-object of all desirable women, an expert at everything he puts his hand to, superior to trained experts in the arts and sciences of most everything, and lucky beyond credulity.
Other reviewers have noted the complete lack of nuance and subtlety in this book. Traits and actions presented as unacceptable in an "bad" individual are passed over when exhibited by a "good" person. Characters do not develop over the course of the 7 years covered. There are very mixed signals of racial and sexual bias and discrimination, almost as if the author could not decide whether to reflect the standards of the time or to show that he is an enlightened man of the 21st century.
Finally, this is a very long book with a medium length book struggling to get out. Whole sections could be cut and not leave the book any less engaging or coherent. I generally like long books but by the end of this one (listened to over 5 days), I had my fill of Nick and his charmed life. Anna's sections are more closely written and did not to my ear have the same tiresome faux-humble presentation as the "Nick" portions.
The reader does a good job overall. He does have quite distinct voices for each of the characters and only very occasionally fails to use the right one. Some of the voices struck me as a bit too stereo-typed but that could be due as much to the writing as the reading.
Wife, mother, nanna, part time actor, avid reader, world traveller, golfer, bridge player, lover of life.
This book is a must read. Bryce Courtney does the Australian Servicemen and Women proud in this epic novel of what it means to be young, Aussie and flung into a war only to have to cope with the consequences of the decisions made during that war. I am so proud to be able to say this book was written and researched thoroughly because there isn't one thing I could fault. Bryce Courtney is no longer with us but I will be sure to read the prequel to this story next. Love it!
Each part of this engrossing tale is as gripping and enjoyable as the last. So Australian. Some of the Aussie sayings are brought to life by Humphrey Bower and said exactly as my parents used to all the time. I particularly liked the one "After the matinee, you still have to go home and mow the lawn." The writing is wonderful and many memories of how my mother and father survived during the war came to life in this book as both of them served as officers in the Australian Army.
His accents are spot on. I like all of his characters especially the Japanese and Javanese characters. The women too. Anna, Marg etc. all delivered with a slightly gentler tone. He is my favourite reader thus far.
Anna because she reminds me a little of myself. I love her bravery in the most frightening of situations.
I generally don't like Bryce Courtney's writing but this one has whet my appetite for more.
I read a lot of reviews before I take on a book by an unfamiliar author who is supposedly very popular somewhere else (like Australia) -- so I am surprised that none of the many reviews I read mentioned how larded this book is with juvenile, uninteresting sex (for the male lead), or perverted sexually-oriented abuse (for/by the female lead). Boring smut, descriptions of penises, and sexual stereotyping (Asians, Catholics, etc) completely undermine a potentially interesting WWII novel that starts out intriguingly. Although to be honest, a lot of the novel's plot that is not sexual consists of unbelievable lucky breaks, discoveries of cash, and field promotions. Can't believe I have actually made it to within three hours of the end (only because it is gardening season and I have hours of listening time).
I know that the subject is a hard one, but oh my land............I kept wondering how long this book would continue on. I actually could not finish it even though I wanted to know what happened to the characters. Just had to stop listening.
Not truelly sure. I think there was too much time spent on the subject of the book and not enough on the story line.
I have and I have loved them. That was the reason I was looking forward to this book. But it was just too harsh and too much and way too long.
Stop listening. I know that sounds harsh......but I'm being truthful.
Don't listen unless you are ready to go into a world not necessary.
After having read several of Courtenay's novels I concluded that he had developed a formula that became very pronounced in this book: An unlikely hero humbly ambles through one (often unbelievable) adventure after another. Always self deprecating, our hero consistently wonders why he is being awarded medals, women, riches, etc. that he insists he doesn't deserve.
I also did not like the treatment of the female characters in the novel. They are flat and predictable. Courtenay's mothers are always the same crochety, auto-didactic crone, the love interests (and there are many in this book) are equally anticipated: they are beautiful, intelligent, hard-to-get, but are always willingly (and sometimes manipulatively) conquered by our humble hero. It was particularly funny to me that all of the female characters who meet our hero fall in love and manage to "service" him EXCEPT the main love interest, Anna, who even after living through the Japanese occupation of Java, manages to remain a virgin until she is around twenty-six years old (and a heroine addict who owns a "brothel") and is reunited with our hero. Yeah, right.
Another problem with the book is its redundancy. Courtenay repeats himself frequently.This book was written when the author was seventy-four years old. Listening to it was like listening to the fantasies of an old man. If you want to really enjoy Bryce Courtenay at his best, listen to the Power of One and Tandia or The Potato Factory Trillogy.
I have all of Bryce Courtenay's books on my wish list and have already listened to half of them (there are several). I will probably listen to the others because, in the end, Courtenay tells a good story, and the history he covers is very interesting. Also, his books are long, and I love really long audio books. But for now, I need a break so I am finishing the Night Watch series by Sergei Lukyanenko. After that I will listen to A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini.
Humphrey Bower is a good reader who is capable of a range of accents and voice levels, however he uses the same voices for each ethnic character he tackles. He used the same black American accent for both the character of Jimmy in Brother Fish and Joe in The Persimmon Tree. Courtenay constantly rails against racism in his books, but his writing contradicts the message as his characters embody unflattering stereotypes. Adding to the problem, the characters in The Persimon Tree were particularly flat. Once you've listened to several of Bower's readings of Courtenay's books the issue becomes annoying.
If you haven't read this one, don't bother. While the historical aspects are interesting, the story is ridiculous.
Humphrey Bower is a fabulous performer with an amazing ability to give real personality to the various characters, so there is no doubt who is speaking. His talent for accents is outstanding!
It has to be Anna but Til (spelling?) is a second!
The characters' voices! He is so talented - there is no way to fully appreciate a book like this by simply reading it.
I can't think of anything that wouldn't sound trite - it is well-named.
I might have liked a more extended ending - it was a bit abrupt. Maybe Mr Courtenay didn't want to emphasize the details of Anna's withdrawal and recovery? Overall, though, I found it really educational since I was not well-versed in Australia's involvement with the Japanese in WW II. Great book!
Newly retired, I am a reading fiend! I like many types of books, both fiction and non-fiction, with the exception of romance and fantasy
I put off listening to this book for quite a while due to the length. However, all the great reviews for author and narrator spurred me on to start it recently. It is an intriguing, highly enjoyable story with an unlikely hero, a young butterfly collector and his true love, an equally young half Dutch, half Indonesian girl. They have only known each other a few weeks before separating and having their own very different and intriguing story lines. Bower is a master at narrating different accents, and Courtnay really knows how to tell a story! What more could you ask for?
It is highly recommended.
I really enjoyed this but especially loved Anna's story. Not quite sure about the ending but overall quite memorable and a good reminder of just how bad the war was and how evil people can be. Will certainly read more of this author
"One that will stay with me "
What a book, evoked every emotion. A skilled author and engaging narrator. Historically researched, interwoven beautifully, couldn't wait to return to my listen.
"Gripping listening, less than great writng"
Humphrey Bower's performance was, as always, suburb, and kept me listening, and finally gripped by the story. This was well researched and interesting both from the historical perspective of the War years and the experiences of the heroine, Anna, at the hands of the Japanese in Java. Anna's story was by far the most engrossing, so much so that the book seemed rather to flag when the narrative returns to the oh-so handsome, brave, well-endowed and modest Nick. Many times I rolled my eyes at Nick's (the narrator's) hackneyed descriptions of 'lovely' women and what they did to his anatomy. sometimes he had the grace to apologise for a cliche, but not often enough! It was this aspect of the writing - downright soppy and sloppy at times - that almost persuaded me to give up listening. I'm glad I didn't. My favourite characters were Kevin and, especially, Till.
This is the 4th BC novel I have read and the best - good characters and solid storyline. If you want an easy listen with a good yarn this is for you.
"A wonderful epic tale"
Yes - I preferred the Audible, It's a long, long book and it was lovely to have it read to me on my commute to work.
The heroine - courageous, clever, persistent, immensly brave - just loved her
No. But I did enjoy this - it needs an Australian voice, and he voiced the characters well, kept an appropriate pace.
An epic tale of love, courage, hardship and persistence
"classically brilliant Bryce Courtenay"
fantastic, invigorating, non stop, edge of your seat story. Can't wait to read the sequel.
"Ripping Story with great pace......however....."
I'm a recent convert to Bryce Courtenay books and this only the second book of his I've read. An amazing masterful pace and a thorough knowledge of the subject set against the background of the Japanese occupation of Java during the Second World War. This is something I knew little about prior to reading the book so, while shocked by the treatment of the Chinese, Javanese and Dutch, I came away from reading the book with a lot more knowledge of that era.
This is a beautiful love story and I was fascinated by Anna (Madame Butterfly's) story during the years of Japanese occupation and how she survived and came out psychologically scarred but physically intact from those years. I had a great respect for her.
Less so her faithless lover Nick, who barely waited weeks before falling in love with another woman and many subsequent women fell to his apparent charms throughout the remaining years of WW2 and his half hearted attempts at finding Anna after the war.
Quite frankly I started to dislike Nick immensely, not just for his annoying attraction to the opposite sex and their predatory sexual intentions towards him, his obsession with breasts but also his 'heroism' during the war which earned him honours, not just from Australian and British governments but also General McArthur and the American Marines. It all got a bit unrealistic.
To be honest, it really spoilt the story for me which was otherwise spotted with some brilliant characters which were superbly portrayed by the narrator Humphrey Bower, who should not go unmentioned in all this. A great piece of narration from him yet again even with the Japanese and American characters, make and female alike.
Altogether a great read, but Nick boy, calm it down a bit eh?
"good read,not for prudes"
Good story,extremely well narrated, but I was a bit put off by the 'blokey' bits - graphic details about the main character losing his virginity and heroic war exploits,details about killing, sado-masochism,and prostitution One for the boys.
"I loved this book!"
Interesting, sad, happy !
The story line was great, it was interesting, funny, sad, happy all in one book. The characters and story line were easy to follow.
I liked them all to be honest.
Too long for that which I liked. I listened to it while out with the dog, doing my ironing and just chilling.
First time I've written a review but this was definitely one of my favourite books.
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