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!
Enjoying one good listen after the next!
There aren't many novels 28 hours long that can hold my rapt attention throughout. This one did. It is an epic saga of that catapults the reader through deep and abiding love, horrendous evil, world war and the afterward of that war. Set in the Pacific, (various island nations) prior to and during World War II, the story is centered on the impact of the Japanese invasion of Java and other nation islands. At its core is the plight of the Dutch who had previously invaded and controlled Java and specifically, the life of Anna, a girl of mixed Javanese and Dutch heritage; and Nick,an Australian butterfly collector who was on an expedition when the invasion by the Japanese was fomented.
"Nicholas" narrates the story in an easy-to-listen-to voice with an amazing down under accent. The various character voices used are memorable and wonderful throughout. Nicholas tells his story and then relates Anna's story as well. I loved the way their stories unfolded and intertwined and also how their lives separated before finally coming back together.
This is a worthy listen if ever there was one. For those who like relatable characters and novels that retrace history, this is a must. Highly recommended.
I enjoyed every minute this book. It was wide ranging in time and place, with interesting characters and insight into the Japanese which was fascinating in its context to their occupation of Java during the Second World War.The reading, with the varying accents of male and female of different races was absorbing and added considerably to my enjoyment. The book also told me so much about this period in history, such as the Dutch occupation, their treatment of the Javanese, the terrible use of young Dutch girls as' comfort women' and the experience of 'Anna' and the upper levels of the Japanese forces. Her 'training ' in sexual pleasuring ,her retention of her innocence'the pearl' and her eventual reunion with 'Nick' ,were all absorbing listening.
The adventures of Nick himself were real Boys Own adventure, from sailing the yacht Butterfly from Java to Australia, to his training and success behind enemy lines,his background as a gentle butterfly collector and his search for his father, eventually dovetailing with his first love Anna.
I loved every minute.beta inappVoteInfo
"Touching love story"
This is an intimate, intricate story which I will return to many times in the future. The characters are vividly drawn and the storyline shows real humanity and humility. Seeing how war touches certain characters and how they react to it made me angry, sad - desperately sad, hopeful, touched, and, in the end, inspired.
The book is long, with lots of narrative and dialogue, yet it never feels forced. It flows beautifully. Each time the story moves from one place to another I was left bereft, wondering what was going to happen next in the previous storyline, before being very quickly swept up in a new or delighting in a continuance of a previous thread like I was greeting an old friend.
This is the first novel I have read/listened to by Bryce Courtenay but I will be looking out for him again. I remain moved by his writing.
Humphrey Bower is a masterful narrator with a wonderful array of voices to bring each character to life. Again, I will be looking for more novels narrated by him.
I found it hard knowing I was drawing near to the close of this story and I know I will be thinking about it for a very long time.
I hope that you love this story as much as I do, and that you are left feeling moved. I feel my life is richer for having experienced this story.
"Charming and chilling"
A chilling story with charming characters,even the bad guys. I loved this book and I was hooked from the first listening. The narration was masterful.
This isn't just an interesting story, it is filled with wonderful descriptions, and insights into the Japanese culture, way of thinking. I could not stop listening to it, yet did not want it to end.
A couple who are seperated during the Japanses invasion recount their different experiencesd of the war. Very moving and enlightening. This was a part of history we did not touch on at school. Painful and real but touching.
"Nice story set in a historic perspective"
I find it always nice to get something more out of a novel when set in an ethnic or historic perspective. In this case Jave around the second wolrd war.
The nice thing about Bryce Courtenay is that it's a friendly, possitive and gentle story; so nice reading. A fascinating story-line. At times a bit very heroic, but it's just nice (I hate horror and evil). There is always a lot in Courtenay's possivitism.
Great story-teller, great story, great performance! Much enjoyed!
Yes to pick up on things that i might have missed.
All they interlink and cant have one without the others.
His narrative style is excellent, switches from character to character with ease.
He prayed over the soldiers.
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
Introduction to Bryce Courtney, thoroughly enjoyed the narration of this excellently written, informative novel, kept me engrossed beginning to end. Have now downloaded Four fires from same author and looking forward to another great listen.
"Beautiful wide-ranging story"
What an enjoyable book. A deep insight into what happened in the war in that part of the world, and a fascinating look at Japanese culture. Thoroughly believable characters, who live with me still. Loved the narration. At times I did get slightly bored with the somewhat self-indulgent typical male author wallowing in the sex and the physically perfect characters, plus the attitude that it is fine and natural for a male to sew their wild oats all they like! But overall a wonderful read.
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