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 found it likeable, but I am confused as to what people who are giving it five stars have been reading/listening to lately. I finished the book about a week ago and I had to think really hard about how it ended before I could write a review about a book I found so mediocre I couldn't care less about the fact there is a sequel, and even forgot that the ending left the story open for one... and it certainly doesn't demand one. I love a long involved drama, but this was long on words and short on drama.. Its one of those that's good enough not to turn it off and waste a credit, but I don't really care what happens to any of the characters.
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this gripping tale of one adventure after another. The narrator Humphrey Bower was superb in telling the tale. I would have given this book five stars, except for two things, 1. It was not necessary to use the "F" word so frequently and I found it distracting and bothersome to listen to, and 2. I was totally disappointed by the lackluster ending with Anna. We wait and wait to hear what will become of her and then, BOOM, it's over. It felt like the author was up against an editor's deadline and made a fast hash of the ending.
Simply the best story line and interaction with the charactors in any book published. It will make you laugh, cry, excited ( in more ways than 1), simply captures all your emotions and is impossible to put down. Reaching for the stars is the sequal.
Good story, but the absolute worst imitation of American accents ever. Very distracting and extremely annoying. He does OK with the upper class accents, but kevin and Joe are horrible parodies of working class speech, and a bit insulting. Other than the spotty narration, this book was good escapist story telling.
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.
Better plotting - so much hinges on lucky coincidences that appear one after another. Too many cheap tricks by the author.
Also - how in the world do you suppose Anna ended up with blue eyes, given that her mother is Javanese? Since there was no indication that she was Dutch/Javanese, a reader must assume she is full Javanese and would therefore have nothing but brown alleles to contribute to Anna. Since the story turns periodically on Anna having blue eyes - I think this is indicative of poor research on the author's part. I don't trust anything he tells us about what happened between the Japanese and the people of Java.
There were so many languages to work with, sometimes Bower seems to be overwhelmed. There were a couple of Japanese who sounded almost Latino.
I read this book because a person recommended it to me. We had both read A Town Like Alice, and he said he liked it even better than Alice. Wow - what a disappointment this book was. A Town Like Alice remains one of my favorite books. I would never recommend this book to anyone.
The story was intriguing
Anna's confrontation with the Japanese guards who came to take her away.
The accents and the language
No, I loved coming back to it.
Absolutely fabulous! The narration was fantastic and the story engaging! Don't let the length of this audio book put you off, you will enjoy every minute of this story!
There are thousands of books set in World War II, but I would bet that there are none that like The Persimmon Tree.
Is it a book set in WWII that happens to contain a love story?
Is it a love story about how experiences can change young love that happens to be set in WWII?
Courtenay has done a good job of combining the love story with essentially two separate stories about Anna and Nick while they were apart and trying to survive war with the Japanese. The book bounces back and forth between Anna and Nick and except for the beginning, where they met, and the end, where they reunite, their lives have no real connection other than their pledges to each other before they parted.
Courtenay has obviously well researched the world Nick and Anna were placed in and the framework is rooted in history. The portrayals of Japanese military and the Javanese population are not always flattering, but they appear to be realistic.
Humphrey Bowers reading is top notch and adds to the enjoyment. He handles the different accents well and the characters are, for the most part, distinct.
This was my first Bryce Courtenay book and it will probably not be the last.
already have, It's well written, moves fluidly, has historical info, and just really excellent.
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