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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.
I had read FISHING FOR STARS previously when THE PERSIMMON TREE (which is the earlier book) was not yet on Audible. Now I am reading FISHING FOR STARS again, I remembered large parts but there are details that I couldn't have understood in the same way in my earlier reading. The PERSIMMON TREE takes place in the Pacific Theater of WWII and provides an important perspective into the war in the islands many of which are now Indonesia, the Japanese war experience, history, cultural traditions, the comfort women, the old Japan and the overlay of the new one, survival and psychological scars. With Humphrey Bower reading, the books are everything that the best of Coutenay's books are.
52 of 52 people found this review helpful
Courtenay was off to a great start in this two-book story. I started into this book knowing there would be a sequel. This book ends rather up in the air and nobody sails into the sunset. But the characters had love and lots of time on their side. Both author and narrator are in top form. Anybody short on credits could just write their own ending and not listen to Fishing for Stars which continues the story. I rather wish I had. I saw healing, cooperative business, babies, brilliant careers for all. But a truly loyal Courtenay fan will have to listen to both. I did. In this book I will say I heard some new (for me) vocabulary. The sex is explicit. There are quite a few most unpleasant scenes and a couple that were sublime, i.e., the little man sitting in the jungle with his watercolors. That was lovely!
35 of 35 people found this review helpful
No one spins a tale quite like Bryce Courtenay. Add Humphrey Bower's narration and you have true magic. Bower is masterful doing all the accents for the multiple nationalities of Courtenay's characters. The two are forever linked in my mind. I waited quite awhile for Audible to offer the Persimmon Tree so I could read this two book series in order. It was well worth the wait. As always with Courtenay, in addition to a great story, you get a bit of history from the other side of the world. This wonderful story takes place during WW II in the South Pacific and brings all the human drama of that time to the listener with wonderful detail. Part of the story was a bit reminiscent of "Geisha". Loved listening to this and am looking forward to "Fishing for Stars" next.
35 of 36 people found this review helpful
Finally! I have found a book to break the 3-star slump I seemed to be in.
I have found a new author and new narrator. Bryce has a lot more novels to discover, and Humphrey Bower brings many of them to life with his fabulous command of accents.
The story has a little bit of everything. It is a romance, but not a mushy tale, of two young people separated by war when the Japanese invade Java. Nick sets sail for Australia expecting to meet Anna there. Anna, gets caught behind enemy lines and learns to do whatever she needs to do to survive. Nick, because of his command of the Japanese language is recruited to Intelligence in the Navy and stationed at Guatemala Canal.
Will they survive the war, and if they do, will their love for each other survive?
12 of 12 people found this review helpful
This was my first audio book and I thoughly enjoyed being able to get on with housework while listening. I also found that I could get into the book in a way that I don't do when reading as I tend to read too fast. The narrator was excellent in the way he was able to do the many accents the story required.My one problem with the story was how often things were repeated. Perhaps one does not notice it in a written book, but it became quite irritating when a similar summary of a situation kept being repeated.
19 of 20 people found this review helpful
Courtenay creates complex characters & interweaves them in intricate & fascinating ways -- a real pleasure to listen to this wonderful storytelling, especially with Humphrey Bower as the masterful narrator. An awesome read. And what a happy surprise to find the story continues in Fishing For Stars!!!
9 of 9 people found this review helpful
This was an odd book - compelling in its way (I did finish it), but often frustrating and downright uncomfortable to get through. The storyline, and the elements that make it up, are the compelling part. It's summarized elsewhere, so I won't do so here. But the characters are all either unsufferably good or insufferably bad. When they are insufferably good, they walk on water to the point of ridiculousness. When they are bad, they are very very bad. And Bryce Courtenay makes sure you know that, through overly written and thoroughly unpleasant scenes that drag on and on and on. The problem with audiobooks is that you can't easily skip over small sections because you don't know when they end. You're forced to plod through. As for the narrator, he's not too bad - he uses accents effectively, but at times indiscriminately, when they don't make sense (why would a woman, Dutch or not, who grew up in Java speak the native language with a heavy Dutch accent?)
25 of 27 people found this review helpful
Most subjects Courtenay writes about I find interesting if not fascinating, however the large middle section of this book about the woman's training to please her captor held almost no interest for me at all. But that's just me, you may love this part of the book. This was my least favorite Courtenay book to date.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful
This was the first novel I listened to by Bryce Courtenay. I found it very engaging and thoroughly enjoyable. I listened to Brother Fish next and could not finish it. It was too similar and the narrator sounded the same for the characters and I kept mixing them up in my head. So my advice is to not listen to them too close together. If you are looking for a credit worthy novel for a long trip or long weekend this is an excellent book.
12 of 13 people found this review helpful
This is another one of those times when I agree with both the positive and negative reviews of a book. With a greater than 4 star rating, clearly the positive ones outnumber the negative. However, I always try to read the lower scoring reviews of any book I’m interested in to glean something valuable possibly missed by the popular audience. If you have not read it and are interested in this book you already enter with a preconception that you will probably enjoy reading it. I suggest that you read the negative reviews.
I have read many of Bryce Courtney’s books. With the talented Humphrey Bower reading/performing any book it is hard to go wrong especially when he teams up with this author. But I think this particular book was not either’s best effort. What is surprising to me is that The Persimmon Tree is not one of the author’s earlier books written at a time (2007) when perhaps his writing skills were less finely honed.
While I don’t agree with many of the negative reviews for their stated reasons, personally, I think the writing itself of this book is at best only mediocre. I’ll almost always bump up a book’s rating because of good writing even if I’m not crazy about the story/plot itself. This lacked both of what we find in Courtney’s earlier works.
Bottom line, while the book is not for everyone, particularly if you are offended by some of the S&M sexual content (I was not), many will probably enjoy it. I cannot say this book was bad nor can I say it was good. I can say that it is not of the calibre of Four Fires. It’s at best only 3 stars for me.
34 of 39 people found this review helpful
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
7 of 7 people found this review helpful
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.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
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.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
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.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
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.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
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.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?
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.<br/>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.<br/>Great story-teller, great story, great performance! Much enjoyed!
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Loved this book so sorry when it finished. Will definitely read more by this author
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.
Another masterpiece my Courtney.
Highly detailed descriptions, and engaging story present a different face of the Vietnam war.
The thread of separated lovers, woven amongst tales of alcoholism, addiction, war crimes, coming of age and more.
Just great, although rather lengthy.
Thank you Bryce for yet another incredibly entertaining and informative story I loved every second. I appreciated all the research involved in writing such a story Thank you
What made the experience of listening to The Persimmon Tree the most enjoyable?
This is simply the best book i have ever listened to, a roller coaster of excitement and emotion.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
Where does The Persimmon Tree rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?
Was recommended Audible books by a friend. I have a very busy job and have to drive 2.5 hours a day to get to & from work. Listening to a book melts away the boredom in the car. Chose The Persimmon Tree as I grew up in Malaysia/Singapore and I LOVED it! It took me a little while - perhaps a chapter - to get used to a story being told to me instead of reading it but then I became addicted and found myself driving around the block to listen to the end of a chapter!
Who was your favorite character and why?
All of them but Nicholas Duncan and Anna are the love story, of course.
What about Humphrey Bower’s performance did you like?
Humphrey Bower's narration is fabulous and his accents are accurate + amusing.
If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?
Never Give Up
Any additional comments?
Highly Recommend this story and the narrator, which seem to go hand-in-hand
What did you like most about The Persimmon Tree?
Amazing and original storyline, could NOT stop listening!
What did you like best about this story?
Humphrey Bower manages to make these books come to life. A great book is only as good as its narrator.
Have you listened to any of Humphrey Bower’s other performances? How does this one compare?
He is a wonderful narrator. I have thoroughly enjoyed ALL of his many narrations.
Any additional comments?
A perfect ending that made me buy the sequel "Fishing for Stars" immediately!