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
Bryce Courtney's novels are favorites because his characters are never perfect, but perfectly flawed. I could listen to Humphrey Bower narrate the ingredients on a cereal box. He has just the right inflection humor, panic, masked emotion. He disappears into each character to the extent that I am usually surprised that there is only one narrator, by the end. Together, they weave wonderful audio experiences! Will listen to more of their collaborations.
Unfortunately, I felt this story was too long and drawn out. It just got boring after a while, even though it could have been much more exciting or suspenseful . . . or something. It’s a good story/plot but definitely not my Bryce Courtenay favorite.
I was disappointed with the quick ending which should have been the best part of the story if Courtenay had taken the time to write it! He leaves the ending implied, but what reader wants to interpret an ending you’ve been aiming towards after 28 hours? The ending was very unsatisfying and too abrupt. The focus of the entire book suddenly has no significance in the ending?
It is not a bad book though, and the narrator Humphrey Bower is fantastic, so it may be worth reading to many. Fans of Courtenay may love it. I did enjoy Courtenay’s “The Power of One” and “Brother Fish”.
This story of a young Australian man and a young Dutch-Javanese woman who fall in love just before WWI and become separated soon thereafter was interesting and brought me new information on the war in the Pacific. It was told from two perspectives - his and hers - who had quite different experiences during the war. While some aspects of the storyline stretched credibility almost to the breaking point, I found myself still wanting to know what happened next. After resolving many crises in almost unbelievable ways the author leaves the final question unanswered. When I realized the book had ended, I cried "What?!"
The narrator was excellent. He managed to make the characters live through his use of accents and tone. I always knew who was speaking. I would select this narrator again without hesitation.
This is a decent listen, but I am not sure I would buy another book by this author.
Bryce Courtenay is a gifted storyteller and Humphrey Bower is one of the best narrators on Audible, so it's hardly surprising that this is one of those books you just can't put down until it's finished. It's also historically very interesting, providing a wealth of information about the situation and events of the Pacific War that I wasn't yet aware of, and just for that it is definitely worth reading.
Even so, it does also have some annoying weaknesses. The main one is that the main character, who is also the first-person narrator of the story, simply isn't credible. I don't know if Courtenay himself ever saw active service in war, and if he did I apologize in advance. However, it doesn't seem even remotely believable that a man could go through the horrific wartime experiences described and still remain basically the same insouciant, happy-go-lucky young man he was at the beginning of the story. Even internally, they hardly seem to touch him. It doesn't ring true, and that lessens the impact of the story as a whole.
The resulting effect is of an author retelling a story that he has heard but was not involved in himself. It is as if he is seeing his characters from the outside, and knows nothing of how they really felt about what they experienced. It is still an excellent story, but if that missing depth had been there it would have been a much, much better novel.
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.
Great book. Great story. But his whole passion was for the woman he loved and when they found each other again, the book very unceremoniously ends. That being said, it was the only disappointment.
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.
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.
"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.
"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!
"engrossing tale, spellbindingly narrated"
Having read and absolutely loved the Power of One as a kid, I am belatedly only now getting to explore the rest of Courtenay's back catalogue. Tandia was fabulous, but this is an altogether more rich and articulate novel, with superbly crafted storytelling and beautiful character development. To have it narrated by such a master as Bower lifts it to another plane altogether. His range and reliability of accents is superb and his expression and timing brings each emotion to life as if you are truly in the skin of each protagonist. If there weren't a sequel for me to start enjoying straight away, I would surely start listening all over again, from those first evenings in the bar in Batavia.
Couldn't put it down. Beautiful story entertained with history and interesting facts.
The narrator is fantastic, beautiful accents which fit the characters,. both male and female.
Probably not. There were parts of the story that dragged on too long
There were interesting insights into a side of WW2 that are not often told and whilst I am interested in the subject matter to an extent, I found the in depth detail of the Japanese sexual perversions tedious
It was a good story, but the intricate details of Anna's training went on too long for me.
The narrator was fine.
It was a compelling story, but it just dwelt too much on Anna for my liking.
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