Kerry1897 wonders is it OK to join this group?

Discussão100 books in 2014 challenge

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Kerry1897 wonders is it OK to join this group?

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Jan 20, 2014, 11:02 am

Hi everyone. I joined the 75 book challenge earlier in January, but was thinking of trying for more. I may not reach 100 books, but will try my best. Is it OK to belong to both groups?

Jan 20, 2014, 11:22 am

Hey Kerry--I don't think it's a problem :) I ended up migrating over here because I couldn't keep up with all of the posting in the 75ers realm, though I do duck back over there to read friends' threads. Good reading!

Jan 20, 2014, 11:41 am

Thanks whitewave - yes the posts are in their thousands already! I'll never keep up.

So how do I structure my posts here? Do I just keep adding books as I read them to this post?

Jan 20, 2014, 4:34 pm

Hi Kerry - structure your thread however you like. Add each book in turn, if that's what suits you. Have a post at the top & update them all in there, if that list structure suits you better. No rules, it's whatever works for you.

And you don't have to get to 100 to be in here, it's only a target after all. Some people will read far more than that, you just read however many and whatever you like. And chat about it, that's the other fun part. Welcome in.

Jan 20, 2014, 7:18 pm

Welcome to the group Kerry !!

Jan 21, 2014, 3:02 am

Welcome to the group, Kerry! And let me reiterate that we have no rules: you can be across as many groups as you like, and add your books here however you like. (Although if you want discussion, I do recommend a fresh post when you add books, otherwise we may not know you're actually reading. :)

Editado: Dez 12, 2014, 2:36 pm

Helen, Bryan and Wookie - pleased to meet you!

Here is what I have read so far, updated by month:


1. Bombs Over Burma by Wifred Burchett
2. The Footprints of Elephant Bill by Susan Williams
3. Life in the Burmese Jungle by A.A. Lawson
4. Curries & Bugles: A Memoir & Cookbook of the British Raj by Jennifer Brennan
5. Mogok, The Valley of Rubies by Joseph Kessel
6. Mandalay the Golden by E.C.V. Foucar
7. The Railway Man by Eric Lomax
8. The Foot of the Rainbow: A Writer's Autobiography by Dorothy Black
9. Letters of an Indian Judge to an English Gentlewoman by Anonymous
10. The Soul of a People by H. Fielding Hall
11. Rough Pencillings of a Rough Trip to Rangoon in 1846 by Colesworthy Grant


12. Secret Rooms by Catherine Bailey
13. Golden Earth by Norman Lewis
14. Burmese Lessons: A True Love Story by Karen Connelly
15. The Sawbwa and His Secretary by C. Y. Lee
16. Burmese Interlude by C. V. Warren
17. Lords of the Sunset by Maurice Collis
18. Land of the Crested Lion: A Journey Through Modern Burma by Ethel Mannin
19. Tales of Burma by Alistair McCrae
20. The Rogue Elephant by A. R. Channel


21. The Road From Mandalay by J. S. Vorley
22. Prisoner's Bluff by Rolf Magener
23. Women of the Raj: The mothers, Wives, and Daughters of the British Empire in India by Margaret MacMillan
24. Burmese Silver by Edward Thompson
25. Under the Dragon: Travels in a Betrayed Land by Rory MacLean
26. Quartered Safe Out Here by George MacDonald Fraser
27. Burmese Outpost by Anthony Irwin


28. Peacocks and Pagodas by Paul Edmonds
29. The 'Incumberances': British Women in India, 1615-1856 by Joan Mickelson Gaughan
30. Burma: The Next Killing Fields? by Alan Clements
31. Branch Line to Burma by John Durnford
32. Burma Surgeon by Gordon Seagrave
33. Burma Surgeon Returns by Gordon Seagrave
34. Bewitched by Burma by Ann Carter
35. Burmese Family by Mi Mi Khaing
36. Last and First in Burma by Maurice Collis
37. The Long Trek: Burma 1942 by John Friend


38. The Road Past Mandalay by John Masters
39. On a Short Leash: Detained in Burma by Mr. Ron Zakreski
40. Out of India: A Raj Childhood by Michael Foss
41. Below the Peacock Fan: First Ladies of the Raj by Marian Fowler
42. Return to Burma by Bernard Fergusson
43. British Rule in Burma, 1824-1942 by G. E. Harvey


44. The Rats of Rangoon by Lionel Hudson
45. The Gurkhas by Byron E. Farwell
46. Bamboo and Bushido by Alfred Allbury
47. The Forgotten Army: A Burma Soldier's Story in Letters, Photographs and Sketches by James Fenton
48. A Journey in Time: Family, Memoirs (Burma 1914-1948) by Wai Wai Myaing
49. Survivor on the River Kwai by Reg Twigg
50. A Personal Narrative of Two Years' Imprisonment in Burmah, 1824-26 by Henry Gouger
51. A Journey in Burma: 1861-62 by Adolf Bastian


52. The Image of War, or Service on the Chin Hills by A. G. E. Newland
53. The Case of the Love Commandos by Tarquin Hall
54. The Hump by Jack Barnard, M.C.
55. Through the Jungle of Death by Stephen Brookes
56. One Fourteenth of an Elephant by Ian Denys Peek


57. And the Dawn Came Up Like Thunder by Leo Rawlings
58. Railroad of Death by John Coast
59. The Emperor's Guest by John Fletcher-Cooke
60. Horror in the East by Laurence Rees


61. We Gave Our Today: Burma 1941-1945 by William Fowler
62. Notes From An Even Smaller Island by Neil Humphreys
63. Scribbles From the Same Island by Neil Humphreys
64. Final Notes From a Great Island: A Farewell Tour of Singapore by Neil Humphreys
65. The World My Country: The Story of Daw Nyein Tha of Burma by Marjorie Procter
66. History of the Armenians in India by Mesrovb J. Seth


67. A Bachelor Girl in Burma by G.E. Mitton


68. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
69. A People at School by H. Fielding Hall
70. Helen of Burma by Helen Rodriguez
71. Bandoola by J. H. Williams
72. The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan


73. Passing On by Penelope Lively
74. Perfect Happiness by Penelope Lively
75. Return Via Rangoon by Philip Stibbe
76. How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively

Editado: Jan 21, 2014, 9:41 am

Warning! Very long post about my choices of books. You will need sustenance before you reach the end, so settle down with a hot cup of __________(insert drink here) and a plate of ___________ (insert baked goods here) before you start.

You may notice a theme developing in the list. My father was born in Rangoon, Burma in 1922, during the last years of the British Raj. He had a small fund of stories about his childhood that were fascinating, but never varied. If I questioned him for more detail, he impatiently said that was all he could remember.
In his eighties he developed Lewy Body dementia and came and lived with me - later he was cared for in a nearby home. Because of his illness I suddenly found myself receiving regular phone calls from his older brother, Arthur, who lived in London. Gradually, more tales of life at 'Coffee Grove' in Rangoon came out. I started to research and expand the family tree Dad had begun in the 1980's. Eventually, in January, 2013, my daughter and I travelled to Burma, and finally saw how the family would have lived. To say it was life changing is an understatement.
A month after returning, Dad died. Meanwhile, Arthur and I talked more on the phone, and I arranged to go to London to see him, for only the fourth time in my life, but the first time to talk about family. A month before arriving he had a heart attack, and was now in hospital. We had three visits together, and despite his weakness he was eager to talk. He told me to go to his flat with his sister, my Aunt Claire, and take the books on Burma. A week after our last visit, just after returning to Canada, he died.
And so, I now have 63 books on Burma needing to be read. I want to honour Arthur for his gift, and my father, Norman, for starting me off on the family tree. I also want to go back to Burma one day.

Thank you for reading this far!

Jan 21, 2014, 11:02 am

Kerry--I'm glad you shared that; it sounds like you'll have some really interesting reading that will be even more involving because of the personal connection. I've been trying to read more South American lit. because of my own family's heritage, and found it really worthwhile. Maybe you'll think about reviewing some of the books, too? I clicked on a couple of the titles, and they didn't have any reviews at all... Either way, I'll be curious to follow along on your journey. Good reading!

Jan 21, 2014, 1:09 pm

Whitewave, I talked a little about each book on my thread in 75 books, not really reviews. I don't know how to post a link to that thread, but will try to figure it out later this afternoon (going out now.) I will do a little mini review on future books.

I have a B.A. in Spanish, achieved many years ago and sadly my Spanish comprehension now is terrible. I remember reading Borges and my favourite poem by Neruda from his 20 Poemas de Amor y una Cancion Desesperada, "Puedo Escribir Los Versos." Just copied that from my little paperback bought in Madrid in 1973 - lovely memories.

Jan 21, 2014, 8:57 pm

Oh! If you want to post a review, just click on your book within your catalogue, or click on "Edit your book" when you go to the book's main page. There's a review box there where you can post any reviewish comments :)

Jan 21, 2014, 9:28 pm

And links are easy, just copy the URL from your browser address bar and paste it in - the LT elves will automagically turn it into a link.

To get a link to a specific posting in a forum thread, click on "More" at the bottom of the posting, and then choose "Link". That will jump you to that link, so you can then cut and paste that. Good if you want people to go to a particular posting.

And thanks for the Burma background! Fascinating!

Jan 22, 2014, 12:09 am

Yes, that is a fascinating story. And I managed to read the whole thing without a G&T or a scone at my side :O) I look forward to hearing more about your Burmese travels.

Editado: Jan 22, 2014, 12:24 am

Kerry, what a wonderful story about your family history! I love genealogy and spent much time poking in my family's old stuff and, when they will let me, their brains! My mother knows that if she starts reminiscing I will start taping her - got an app for my smartphone so it's quick and easy. But I wish I had a stash of family books! It will be a treat to follow along with your exploration.

Editado: Jan 22, 2014, 2:04 am

Finished book no. 8 of January and have posted a review.

8. The Foot of the Rainbow: A Writer's Autobiography by Dorothy Black

Wookie - thanks for link advice

Judylou - Cheers, I love a tall G & T

Wareagle - I bought a digital recorder for my trip which sadly never got used.

Editado: Jan 23, 2014, 11:24 pm

9. Letters of an Indian Judge to an English Gentlewoman by Anonymous

I had glanced at this book in December, reading the first few letters, and I found it hard to believe that an English woman of the ruling class in the early 1900's would talk at length to an unimportant Indian lawyer, then answer his letter of thanks and then continue the correspondence over many years. So after a quick internet search I find out the book was actually written by Dorothy Black, but not revealed as such until after her death in 1977. So, I made a point of reading her autobiography first, see no. 8 above, then this. Here is my review.

First published in 1934, this book purports to be the letters of an Indian lawyer who eventually becomes a judge, to an English woman he met only once at a party. The letters reveal the prejudices common in India and Burma at the time and the writer's firm belief that Colonial rule by sympathetic English men would be the best thing fior these countries. We only have the Indian's letters to read, which are also full of his family, his traditional superstitious wife, and his sons, one of whom goes to Cambridge like his father. I started this book hoping to get a slice of life as it was in Colonial times from the other point of view, of one of its inhabitants. Having a father who grew up in Burma and India at the same time this book was written, I had some familiarity with the era, so I could not shake off the feeling that these letters must have been heavily edited. I also could not quite believe that a memsahib of the Raj would have kept up such a long correspondence. And so, it turns out that the book was written by Dorothy Black, a successful romance writer. She did spend many years in Burma and was not typical of the English women there, as she hated the snobbishness and formality. I think she wrote this book in the persona of the English woman at the party, making up the judge's letters to reflect her political views. Views that were very pro Colonial nonetheless, and perhaps a little condescendingly paternalistic. But I am looking at this eighty years later, after WWII, after Independence and after Burma's military dictatorship and its demise. Interestingly, my copy is from 1978, a year after she died and it does not credit her as the author although the book has been re-issued under her name.

Editado: Maio 2, 2014, 5:18 pm

Well, last night was very productive. I finished

10. The Soul of a People by H. Fielding Hall

before going to bed, then downloaded

11. Rough Pencillings of a Rough Trip to Rangoon in 1846 by Colesworthy Grant

when I couldn't sleep, and read it before breakfast! It was only a short book, but now I am lusting after a physical copy which I can get as print on demand. If they use the scan I was reading there will be lots if extraneous junk on the page, but it still might be worthwhile. Grant was an artist and his sketches, both with pencil and words, of a very primitive, swampy Rangoon are as delightful as they are informative.

I am not a natural history buff, but can take it in small doses if it is concentrated on ordinary people involved in great events. These two books were perfect examples of the type I like. "The Soul of a People," talked about Buddhism as perceived and acted upon by the people in their day-to-day lives, and I learned a lot.

Next goal: We're going away for the weekend and it involves two ferry journeys plus a lot if driving. I would like to finish a 12th book for the month and start a 13th on Feb.1st. We shall see!

Editado: Fev 11, 2014, 5:03 pm

Twelfth book of the year, first for February, but not one about Burma. We were away this weekend so I took a modern paperback with me rather than one of my uncle's precious books, in case it got left somewhere. As it was, I only managed to leave one thing behind, a blouse in the hotel closet.

12. Secret Rooms by Catherine Bailey

Perhaps not quite as exciting as the cover blurb promises, but I was intrigued by the idea of her going through private correspondence that was untouched for seventy years. Set against her descriptions of battles during the First World War, the book also reveals how the English ducal aristocracy lived and had lived the generation before, and makes life at Downton Abbey look like Coronation Street. The 8th Duke of Rutland's carriage would be preceded by trumpeters announcing he was coming, and all his tenants would come out to bow and scrape, while he waved benignly.

Her conclusions about the "mystery" set forth in the beginning of the book were a little weak, I thought, but it was still a good read.
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Fev 11, 2014, 5:03 pm

13. Golden Earth by Norman Lewis

Not as much reading getting done because of the Olympics. May I say here, "Yay Canada!!!" We won't be top of the medal list by the end of the competition, but we have made a good start.

Another travel book, but this time the trip is in 1951, and the author wants to go to places the authorities don't. Not as exciting as it sounds, but I do admire a man who can cope with the heat, and whose nightly bedtime routine starts with the hunting of cockroaches.

The poverty, illness and general dilapidation is evident after the war, and reading this I felt nothing much has changed.

Fev 11, 2014, 6:41 pm

And Australia will be nowhere near the top of the medal list. Winter sports are not our expertise, in a country with very little snow. :)

Fev 11, 2014, 8:45 pm

Never mind, you more than make up for it in the Summer games. Canada isn't top of the heap anymore, either.

Fev 11, 2014, 8:55 pm

14. Burmese Lessons by Karen Connelly

Started this yesterday morning and just finished it. Such lovely writing, so poetic, and I learned a lot about Burma's modern revolutionary struggles. Although, the experienced old lady in me wanted to say, "Tsk, silly girl," more than once. Really, you are in a secret jungle camp and go all pouty because your lover, the leader of this political faction, can't spend day and night with you? Well, she was very young, and she writes well, so she's excused.

Fev 14, 2014, 1:00 am

Finished this one yesterday, 15. The Sawbwa and His Secretary by C. Y. Lee, who wrote Flower Drum Song, the book, not the musical! He was a personal assistant to a Shan prince in the early 1940's, until the Japanese invaded in 1942.

Fev 14, 2014, 9:19 pm

16. Burmese Interlude by C.V Warren

I really am enjoying books like this one, written by men who were sent out from England with no jungle experience who were thrown in at the deep end and left to succeed or flounder. Charles Warren was in Burma for five years through the 1930's rebellions, working as a Forest officer for Swan Brothers. He was posted from place to place, overseeing the immense work of teak extraction, from the scouting and marking out of good stands of timber which might be leased by the company, to girdling the trees and letting them die for three years before cutting them down. Then comes the dragging of the trees, using elephants, to the dried up river beds. Later in the season the Rains would come, the rivers swell and the logs would float down the tributaries to the Irrawaddy, be corralled, measured, marked and paid for, then lashed together in great booms that would be steered to Rangoon by a native Burmese sailor, who would build a bamboo hut on top of it.

Warren had to be a medical practitioner to both his men and the elephants, a paymaster wandering a jungle full of rebels whilst carrying vast amounts of cash, a judge in the petty disputes that arose amongst the villagers and his men, an accounts clerk and a master at writing up every event for head office. All the while keeping a diary, mastering Burmese, trying to understand Buddhism and Nat worship, and frequently falling ill himself, with bouts of malaria and Dengue fever. Oh, and don't forget fighting off rebels, elephants gone musth, carpets of insects and stray tigers!

This isn't the first book dealing with this I have read (see Elephant Bill if you want a good intro into this world) but it seemed the most sympathetic to the Burmese people, and you could see Warren loved Burma deeply, despite its drawbacks. Later he became a tea plantation manager in Ceylon, and disappeared from view. A remarkable man, one of many who just seemed to have the grit, backbone or whatever you want to call it that is rarely seen nowadays.

Fev 14, 2014, 9:59 pm

"Interlude" makes it sound a lot more sedate than your description does!

Fev 17, 2014, 7:35 pm

17. Lords of the Sunset, a tour in the Shan states by Maurice Collis

Maurice Collis was part of the ICS (Indian Civil Service) whose members were also known as the "Heaven-born." He was posted in 1912, serving as a district commissioner and later a district magistrate in Rangoon. He left in 1934 and settled in England. He went back to Burma in early 1938, and with his many contacts travelled throughout the eastern part that borders on China and Thailand, called the Shan states.

This was a rich area historically ruled by the Sawbwas, or princes. Each Sawbwa had a palace, or Haw and multiple wives. When Britain fought its third Burmese war in Mandalay, it offered the Shan princes autonomy within their states in return for leases on timber rights, silver mines and ruby mines. The Shans were happy to oblige, as these were much more favourable terms than those of the cruel Burmese kings. And so, 50 years later, Collis travels here, sleeping in Haws, being offered hospitality by the remaining Brits and Shans, and generally observing the lie of the land. He loved all the peoples of Burma, spoke fluent Burmese, and was an observant and sensitive traveller.

This book made me feel I was travelling with him. He can describe an interior with a minimum of words and make you see it, or a meal and make you taste it. He took pictures, some of which are reproduced. His adventures included a Sawbwa's funeral and a rough ride in an ancient truck with an equally ancient Shan princess, still inspiring the deep respect of the populace although no longer in power. I am inspired to read more by him.

Editado: Maio 22, 2014, 1:55 am

18. Land of the Crested Lion: A Journey Through Modern Burma by Ethel Mannin

Parts of this journey undertaken in 1954 could have been lifted directly from my travel diary of Burma in 2013. So much has remained the same in Burma, including the suicidal method of gaining access to a river boat in Mandalay. You walk a narrow (no more than 6 inches wide) plank slung between the shore and the bobbing boat. Ethel didn't like it and neither did I. Only Ethel was lucky - she only had to walk one plank, but the boat I was taking had moored out in the stream, seven boats and seven planks away. No one explained this to me. The last plank between the two boats was narrower and canted to one side, and at that point I decided to go home. However, I hadn't counted on the fact that the Burmese are a helpful and resourceful people, so I was ushered below decks while they aligned the two boats, then pushed me through the porthole of one into the other. I was brought up triumphantly by the owner of the boat to cheers and laughter, while I subsided into a bamboo chair and proceeded to quietly have hysterics.

Many of the sights Ethel saw have been cleaned up, perhaps a little too much, the political situation is very different and of course there are more "mod cons" available, but most of Burma is very much the same. A traveller to the country could still learn a lot from this book.

Fev 23, 2014, 8:53 pm

Through a porthole?? Sounds undignified to say the least!

Fev 23, 2014, 11:10 pm

Yes, a larger than usual rectangular porthole. Very undignified! I was hyperventilating so much that the worried guide asked my daughter if I had asthma. When she said no, I had just been frightened by walking the planks, he could not understand it. The Burmese walk so gracefully and have an incredible sense of balance. Most of the time there I felt like a lumbering, pink faced goon.

Fev 24, 2014, 2:22 am

As the person who's always windmilling and falling over in yoga, I empathise with your "lumbering" feelings. I can't even be graceful amongst other westerners!

Fev 25, 2014, 8:19 pm

19. Tales of Burma by Alister McCrae

This is a collection of stories from the men who lived and worked in Burma, whether they were rice merchants, teak extractors or soldiers. Some of these men have such incredible stories that they have been featured in other books, notably Ritchie Gardiner in Flight by Elephant by Andrew Martin.

This book would be a good introduction if someone wanted to know a little of each of the many trades and industries the British practised throughout Burma, and how different their workaday lives were.

Fev 26, 2014, 6:47 pm

20. The Rogue Elephant by A. R. Channel

A book for young adults about a boy and his elephant in the teak camps. Exciting scenes of encounters with dacoits (lawless jungle robbers) and wild elephants gone "musth." The author knows a lot about elephant behaviour and teak logging. Charming black and white illustrations, woodcuts or linocuts, I think.

I had set myself a goal of ten books a month, and so far, despite the Olympics and February being shorter, I seem to have achieved it. But the weather has been awful and gardening season hasn't started yet. I don't think I will be able to keep up this pace.

Fev 28, 2014, 12:47 am

Congrats with keeping up the pace so far, anyway. The Olympics did me in this month, I only read seven. But I did enjoy the sports, so it's all good.

Editado: Maio 22, 2014, 1:52 am

21. The Road From Mandalay by J. S. Vorley

My first book for March. This was lent to me by a good friend who is an expert in Asian art and is currently in Burma. I have ordered a copy for myself and the order was confirmed, so it is safe to include in my library, I think.

Vorley and his wife were caught up in the bombing of Rangoon in 1941/42 and subsequent escape to India. He was appointed head of evacuation, and his account was written in the early 1950's, but not published until 2003, when his son finally got it into print. He covers the usual stories of masses of refugees, cholera, contaminated water, little food, etc, but also mentions the incredible selfless acts of ordinary humans, and the welcome of the native populace in the countryside. He has no time for the self-serving colonial types who ran off at the first whiff of danger, or the mulish bureaucrats so wound up in red tape they could not release much needed supplies of food and transport.
The book was published sixty years after the events took place, so seems more honest than others published soon after the War, when the authors had to be careful who they vilified.

Mar 5, 2014, 12:36 pm

22. Prisoners' Bluff by Rolf Magener

A prisoner of war escape story with a difference: two German POWs escape from a British camp in Northern India, and impersonating British officers travel by train, sampan and foot, ending up in Burma, where they liaise with the Japanese. They weren't the only ones to break out that day as seven escaped but went their separate ways, including Heinrich Harrer, who wrote about his adventure in Seven Years in Tibet.
Not many books written from the other side's point if view, although their privations and fears were the same.

Mar 13, 2014, 6:59 pm

23. Women of the Raj: The mothers, Wives, and Daughters of the British Empire in India by Margaret MacMillan

This book is a good introduction to the way life was lived by the colonizers of India, from the late 1700's to 1947, when India got her Independence. It made me want to track down some of the autobiographies and published letters of these women, for more detail. Life out there lagged behind the fashions and sweeping reforms of Home, so even in the 1920's there was a rigid protocol about dress and manners. I understand now why my father, who was brought up in Burma in the 1920's and 1930's was so old fashioned when it came to my teenage behaviour. I wish I had known that then; it would have saved so many arguments!

Editado: Mar 19, 2014, 10:26 am

24. Burmese Silver by Edward Thompson

25. Under the Dragon: Travels in a Betrayed Land by Rory MacLean

The first one was a bit of a slog. It is the tale of a dying English civil servant's trip to Burma to find his disaffected old school friend. They had come out to India together at the height if the Raj, and while Clive had swallowed the colonizing government's rules whole, his friend had left the service abruptly and ended up as a ruler in the Shan States of Burma. His lands are full of silver, jade and rubies as well as head hunting Wa tribesmen. While it is fiction, the setting, the tribal tales, the greed of first the Chinese then the British governments are all true. However, the book is set in about the 1910's and is written in a florid, mystical and self conscious style from decades earlier, which I found excruciating. If it weren't for the challenge, I would have given up, so I am patting myself on the back right now!

Under the Dragon was a quick read in comparison. This was an account of a visit to Burma in 1998 in search of an antique woven basket. One chapter is devoted to their search and the people they meet, the next is the author's re-telling of the person's life story before the meeting.

Again, I am struck by how little Burma has changed.
The themes in Burmese Silver, of the greed of other countries wishing not to trade fairly with Burma, but to invade and despoil her, of the fighting between the Shans and other ethnic groups, the isolationism and ignorance of the Burmese kings in the 19th century, and the generosity and kindness of the Burmese people, are repeated nearly a hundred years later in Under the Dragon. Behind the jolly tourist trail lurks a menacing, relentless government that would kick out a village of 5000 people just to tidy up the area for visitors (Bagan) or use forced labour to build roads by hand. Really, nothing has changed.

Mar 25, 2014, 8:20 pm

26. Quartered Safe Out Here by George MacDonald Fraser

A refreshing memoir of the six months Fraser served in Burma in 1945, and the men from Cumbria in his regiment. His views are very non-PC and all the more accurate in reflecting how people thought about war then. We tend to look back at history through our modern preconceptions and make judgements that would have been incomprehensible to the people of that era.
This is why I like reading about history through memoirs and autobiographies, getting into the mindset of the authors, even if it isn't ideologically acceptable today.

Mar 31, 2014, 10:25 am

27. Burmese Outpost by Anthony Irwin

Small volume written by the author while fighting in the Arakan jungle. Not afraid to show his fears, the immediacy of his writing helps to bring that world to life. I am full of admiration for these young men dealing with the enemy so closely, in many instances with hand to hand combat. Reading between the lines you can see how Irwin will be psychologically scarred for life.

Abr 7, 2014, 5:13 pm

Abr 15, 2014, 4:41 pm

Finished these two in the past week:

29. The 'Incumberances': British Women in India, 1615-1856 by Joan Mickelson Gaughan

30. Burma:The Next Killing Fields? by Alan Clements

The Incumberances is well researched and well written, so I felt eager to read it despite it being quite a learned book about a very small piece of history. The author goes back before the establishment of the colonial Memsahib, to the age when India was just being discovered by the East India Company, who would send out their factors to trade for them, giving them a paltry salary which they were expected to augment through private trade. Some of the men wanted to bring their wives and families with them, since they could be away for a minimum of two to four years. The women were first viewed as 'Incumberances,' but soon they were allowed to go, and in fact single women were sent out by the Company to civilize the men. These women were from all classes and the records we have of them are their diaries, housekeeping notebooks, letters and their trading documents, as some of them ran businesses and made fortunes.
This was quite a different take on the usual snooty Memsahib who was more worried about protocol in India than her sisters in England. These women explored the country, some learned at least one of the languages, some were impressed by the culture, arts and good manners of the native inhabitants. There were those who lived their lives as if they were in Bognor Regis and ignored India, of course, but Gaughan concentrates on the women who loved India.

Burma: The Next Killing Fields? is a short book published in 1992. Alan Clements spent seven years in. Burmese monastery, came out, then made two dangerous illegal trips back after the 1988 uprising that was brutally put down by the government. It is the first political book I have read about Burma, and twenty-five years after, one wonders if this sort of thing is still going on. Probably, even though all the political prisoners were recently freed. The only unsmiling people I saw in Burma were the military.

Editado: Ago 16, 2014, 1:04 pm

31. Branch Line to Burma by John Durnford

This "I was a POW in a Japanese camp" memoir was a little bit different from the rest.
The author doesn't dwell on the horrors so much as describe the singing, concert and theatre parties. In the hospital camps after the Burma-Siam railway was built, recovering POW's put on full performances of classical music, nightclub entertainment, comedy acts and full plays. They used mosquito netting, bamboo, palm leaves and anything they could to build a stage with lights, curtains and props, as well as kitting out the actors in costumes and wigs. The Japanese officers in charge if the camps got front row seats. The trick was to slyly make fun if their captors without them catching on. If they had, harsh beatings and punishments would have followed. Astonishing!
I found a link to an online PDF book with more about it.

Editado: Maio 6, 2014, 1:14 am

32. Burma Surgeon by Gordon Seagrave

This is quite a well known book about a medical missionary who came from a long line of American missionaries to Burma. He was educated in the USA, but spent most of his life in Burma, establishing a hospital in the Shan states, training Burmese nurses and bring medical care to remote villages. His book also covers what happens just after the Japanese invade Burma in WWII, and how he and his nurses escape. His energy, bordering on the manic, is incredible.
I am now halfway through the sequel, Burma Surgeon Returns, where after setting up a field hospital in India, he and his group go back into northern Burma while the war is still on, in 1943, to support the Chinese troops who had no field hospitals at all. This book has a personal family resonance for me, as they trek through the dreaded Hukawng Valley, where a year before thousands lost their lives on the great trek out. Several of my great-aunts and their children died on that trek, we don't know where. In this book, a year later, the trail and bamboo huts are full of skeletons. Burial parties are starting to clear up, but unless you had some indestructible ID (like a dog tag), your resting place is an unmarked grave in the jungle. Very sad.

Abr 19, 2014, 11:36 am

33. Burma Surgeon Returns by Gordon Seagrave

This book deals with his return to Burma from India, while the war us still on. He moves his mobile hospital unit as troops advance, ending at the hospital he built before the war at Namkahn in the northern Shan states.

Abr 19, 2014, 11:44 am

34. Bewitched by Burma by Ann Carter

Somehow missed entering this one, which I finished earlier this month. Tales from a family of missionaries who worked in Burma.

Abr 20, 2014, 7:59 pm

35. Burmese Family by Mi Mi Khaing

This book about the author's life in Burma in the 1920's to 1930's gives a complete picture of the old fashioned ways of a typical Burmese Buddhist family. There are good descriptions of the food, playthings (seeds, not toys!) and festivals of the period. She also describes how respect for family and the monks is worked into everyday life. While so many things have changed in the last hundred years, I think one of the lasting customs has been this respect and reverence toward the hpongyis, extended family and the elderly.

Abr 25, 2014, 4:50 pm

36. Last and First in Burma by Maurice Collis

This book repaid a careful reading at a slower than usual pace. Collis had access to people and documents that no other expert on Burmese independence had. He goes into detail of how impossible the thought of the Japanese invading Burma was to the British, and how helpless they were when caught so unprepared. He explains step by step how Burma's hero, Aung San (father of the current NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi) first treatied with the invading Japanese, then formed a Resistance movement when it became clear they would not let Burma self govern, then finally asked the British to help him get rid of the invaders. In between are snippets of eyewitness accounts of the troubled country. An excellent read that fills in lots of gaps. For example, current accounts of Aung San's assassination indicate there was a mystery surrounding who did it. Read this and you will find compelling evidence that there was no mystery at all.

Abr 28, 2014, 1:52 pm

37. The Long Trek: Burma 1942 by John Friend

A little Corgi paperback with a lurid and inaccurate cover (the official uniform was desert shorts, long socks and boots, not camouflage trousers) this is another of my uncle's hoard of books. Many months in the jungle, surrounded or being tracked by the Japanese, unsure of the reception at Burmese villages because some were friendly and some not, John Friend and his comrades try to escape, relying on a map torn from the pages of a schoolbook. More gritty soldier stuff - I might be getting a taste for it, amazingly!

Maio 2, 2014, 5:18 pm

38. The Road Past Mandalay by John Masters

I have never read any military history books that dealt with the minutiae of forming an attack, moving troops, dealing with enemy surprises, etc. Stuff like that would bore me to tears. This book is a revelation because with clear, concise writing, Masters draws you in gradually so you really care what happens to him and his Gurkhas. This is the second part of his three part autobiography, and deals with his wartime experiences in Iraq, Iran and Burma. It does not gloss over difficult subjects like friendly fire, lack of support from the supply lines or cowardice in the regiment. He gives his opinions of the leaders in the Burma campaign and why he thinks some were more use than others. I enjoyed it so much I have picked out seven novels of his we already have in our Penguin collection and will be reading those next.

Maio 5, 2014, 11:51 am

>49 kerry1897: Nice review--I'm adding this one to the list!

Maio 6, 2014, 1:27 am

Thanks whitewave - I hope you enjoy it.

Editado: Maio 22, 2014, 1:47 am

39. On a Short Leash: Detained in Burma by Mr. Ron Zakreski

I picked this book up at the huge annual book sale a local paper puts on, along with some other great buys. Zakreski wandered over the Thai border into Burma in 2011, while visiting a border town. He was detained for 17 days as 'guest' of the Myanmar Army. This is his self published book of those days. My biggest complaint about the book are the numerous mis-spellings and grammatical errors: "trail" for "trial", "diffuse" for "de-fuse" and mixing up "there and their." I would have been more annoyed had I paid full price, $19.00 instead of $2.00.

I think he is being disingenuous when he claims he had no idea he was crossing a border, but he should not have been held for quite so long. Still, Burma is well known for having no idea of human rights and they do what they like.

Editado: Maio 22, 2014, 1:48 am

40. Out of India: A Raj Childhood by Michael Foss

Although the author did not spend many years of his childhood in India, the country made a deep impression on him. The hot, sunny, hubbub of Delhi and other cities, contrasted with the grim, grey and cold towns of England that he lived in, between two sojourns to India is described in detail. Seeing India through the eyes of a child reminded me of the books by Rumer Godden and M. M. Kaye which I must read again.

Maio 18, 2014, 9:37 pm

41. Below the Peacock Fan: First Ladies of the Raj by Marian Fowler

History books give the official facts of the ruling of colonial India by governors-general and viceroys, but this book dives into the letters and diaries of four women married or related to those governors. Emily Eden went to India in 1836 with her brother, Lord Auckland, Charlotte Canning went with her husband, Viscount Charles Canning in 1856, Edith Lyttleton with her husband, Lord Lyttleton in 1876, and Mary Curzon (an American by birth) with her husband, Lord Curzon of Kedelston in 1898.

The lives described by these women reflect the gradual development if a stiff formality and eventual standoffish attitude of the English rulers in India towards the people they governed. Each woman was profoundly affected by her life in India. The book is a good introduction to the four women, and how India changed under her Colonial masters.

Maio 21, 2014, 2:42 am

42. Return to Burma by Bernard Fergusson

I am reading his three books about Burma out of order. This is his third, about a trip he made in 1960 to visit the sites he had fought at in WWII. The first two are Beyond the Chindwin, which I must get, and The Wild Green Earth which is in the to read pile.

Maio 21, 2014, 4:49 pm

Such a fascinating focus to your reading this year, Kerry. My dad was in Merrill's Marauders during the war and always had very positive things to say about the Burmese people.

Maio 22, 2014, 1:45 am

Your Dad was a very brave man and you must be so proud of him! I still have several more books about the various battles fought in Burma, but I don't think any that deal in depth with Merril's Marauders. Another book hole to fill!

Maio 28, 2014, 3:23 pm

43. British Rule in Burma, 1824-1942 by G. E. Harvey

This is a slim book packed with excellent information on the colonial rule of Burma. The author was in the ICS for twenty years and had access that many historians did not. He is sympathetic to the people's struggles but makes the point that at the start of WWII the majority of the population in Burma who lived outside the main cities were living a feudal life with feudal attitudes. This has made Burma's road to independence difficult. What he could not have known, as the book was published in 1946, is the legacy of that feudal attitude helped the oppressive military government keep its stranglehold on the country.
What is happening in Burma now is riveting, because the automatic respect for monks, ministers, politicians and teachers that the poorly educated have has not disappeared in the last 70 years, or been altered by better education and independent thinking.

I know I harp on the same theme, but really, Burma has been like a country in aspic with no fluid change. The rich and powerful control everything and are terrified of Western knowledge 'contaminating' their happy, smiling, poor, ground down populace. Unfortunately, the leaders' greed has been their undoing, as they needed the rest of the world's money to invest in the country, after squandering her natural resources to line their pockets. The seeds of that future mis-management are noted in this book. Prophetic.

Jun 5, 2014, 2:13 am

44. The Rats of Rangoon by Lionel Hudson

Very good description if the last five months in the POW camp in Rangoon jail. The author kept a diary and was on hand when the Japanese abandoned the city days before any Allied forces entered.

Jun 8, 2014, 7:31 am

Some great books! Branch Line to Burma is the one that most caught my eye.

Jun 10, 2014, 1:25 am

Hi Wookie,

Yes, I had never heard of anyone actually having fun in a Japanese prison camp before. They were still starved, beaten and tortured, but I guess the British public school habit of dressing in drag and putting on a show was ingrained in the officers. A common theme in all the prison stories is how organized they were, whether running classes, helping in the sick bay, scrounging food for others and burying the dead. There was no 'me first, survival of the fittest' attitude that prevails today.

Jun 11, 2014, 1:26 am

45. The Gurkhas by Byron E. Farwell

This is a good introduction to the history of the Gurkhas, with many anecdotes of their incredible fearlessness, loyalty and honesty. I never knew the Gurkhas fought in WWI France!

Editado: Jun 12, 2014, 1:50 pm

46. Bamboo and Bushido by Alfred Allbury

An incredible tale of survival from the fall of Singapore in 1942 until his rescue in 1944. Nearly three years in various prison camps in Thailand, building the infamous Burma railway. He relied on friendships and memories to keep him going, even though the friend you had today could be dead from cholera or a punishment tomorrow. The ending made me cry.

Jun 13, 2014, 2:16 am

47. The Forgotten Army: A Burma Soldier's Story in Letters, Photographs and Sketches by James Fenton

I have been reading this on and off for a month or so. Fenton graduated from art school, then joined up. He served in Burma and wrote to his extended family regularly. He painted and later made photos the old fashioned way, with glass plates, sometimes developing the pictures under canvas in a slit trench. The letters are not that exciting as he was hampered by the censor and to me they seem quite emotionless sometimes. The book includes some of his photos and paintings. Not one I would recommend.

Editado: Ago 17, 2014, 4:50 pm

48. A Journey in Time: Family Memoirs (Burma, 1914-1948) by Wai Wai Myaing

49. Survivor on the River Kwai: The Incredible Story of Life on the Burma Railway by Reg Twigg

It was a dull, cool weekend so I spent a lot if time reading. I finished A Journey in Time after starting it a while ago. Similar to Burmese Family the author completely glosses over how they survived in the war except to say they moved to a couple of different places, commodities were scarce and they had to sell some of their luxurious possessions to survive. No mention of how they got on with the Japanese. Only three and a half pages in this book given to this incredible time in history. Also, absolutely no criticism of anything, in both books, except some slight reservations about the British. I could have read just one or the other as they are both essentially the same.

Reg Twigg was nearing his hundredth birthday when he died just weeks before his memoir was released. He was in a lot of the same camps that were described in Bamboo and Bushido so some familiar things there. He was a very resourceful prisoner and did what he had to do to survive. Wait hours in the jungle to catch a lizard to eat? Grope around in the compost heaps for shoots of pumpkin for added vitamins? Steal from the kitchen (a death sentence), Reg was the cheeky chappy who survived. I loved this book and a few tears were shed as I read it.

Jun 21, 2014, 4:11 pm

50. A Personal Narrative of Two Years' Imprisonment in Burmah, 1824-26 by Henry Gouger

Halfway through!

This e-book was downloaded from Cornell University's Southeast Asian studies department. Looks like there are a lot if interesting original narratives in the collection.

Gouger spent two years in a Burmese prison, in fetters, starved, beaten and tortured, until the British fought the First Burmese War, and he was released. He claims to be the first European to see teak and rice as profitable commodities.

Jun 30, 2014, 10:28 pm

51. A Journey in Burma: 1861-62 by Adolf Bastian

Actually finished this last week. Quite a thorough narrative by a traveller who comes across as a bit fussy and set in his ways. Must have chicken every night! Must have eggs every morning! The highlight for me was finding a mention of my great great (possibly one more great) grandfather in the book. He generously offers Mr. Bastian hospitality in his house, the centre for the Armenian and other merchants, but Bastian churlishly declines, because he wants to see the "real" Burma and practice his Burmese. Bastian trails all over town trying to find other accommodation, only to go back to Mr. Ter Minas's house well after midnight, admitting defeat.
Bastian carries on, constantly exasperated by locals badgering him for medicine, his cooks and boatmen quitting, delays with hiring boats, etc. He chronicles as much as he can about the habits of the people, their lives, their religions, the countryside, flora and fauna, artworks, monasteries, the lot! As I said, he was thorough!

Jul 3, 2014, 1:37 am

52. The Image of War, or Service on the Chin Hills by A. G. E. Newland

I read this online. It is an account of an army regiment in the Chin Hills of Burma in 1890-91, with 190 or so photographs by the author. The fact he took a big camera with glass slides on an expedition that went up and down razor back mountains, through icy passes and sweltering valleys, and managed to bring home these photos is amazing. He captured the Chin way of life which had remained the same for centuries.

Editado: Ago 17, 2014, 4:51 pm

53. The Case of the Love Commandos by Tarquin Hall

I love this set of mysteries featuring Vish Puri, Most private investigator in Delhi. The author has lived in India and the books are full of descriptions of the traffic, crowds and especially the street food, which Puri is addicted to. With the help of his mummy-ji, who Puri thinks should stick to being a mummy, not a detective, he solves the case of the missing lower caste boy and murder of his mother. This is the fourth and latest book in the series. As addictive as a chicken tikka!

Jul 9, 2014, 3:19 pm

54. The Hump by Jack Barnard, M.C.

Escape from Burma tale with lots of detail about local tribespeople, the Chinese Army and climbing an extremely high mountain, that even American airmen fell foul of. The men were accompanied by the Chinese wife of one of them, who encouraged them by her example. It is obvious the author was half in love with her. Rather touching.

Jul 20, 2014, 12:04 am

55. Through the Jungle of Death by Stephen Brookes

I am on holiday in the UK and picked this up last Thursday at a second hand market. Devoured it in a couple of evenings. This book comes the closest to describing in minute detail what trekking through the Hukawng Valley was like. I learned there were hold ups for months because the authorities denied a free passage to the refugees. Many died unnecessary deaths, probably my great-aunts among them. The author went through this with his family when he was only eleven.

Editado: Ago 16, 2014, 1:35 pm

57. And the Dawn Came Up Like Thunder by Leo Rawlings

58. Railroad of Death by John Coast

Another pair of POW autobiographies on the Burma-Siam Railway. Leo Rawlings was an artist and his book is filled with drawings made while he was a prisoner. If they had been found he would have been tortured, then put to death. This was a second-hand hardback I found on holiday in the UK, but the publishing house Myrmidon, who published John Coast's book, is re-issuing it soon, with never before published pictures and some commentary.

Their re-published edition of Railroad of Death comes with a transcript of a 1969 BBC documentary, "Return to the River Kwai," in which John Coast revisits the railway with three of his former Japanese captors, including Nagase Takashi, who later featured in Eric Lomax's The Railway Man. There are other interesting appendices, too.

Ago 13, 2014, 1:05 am

59. The Emperor's Guest by John Fletcher-Cooke

Yet another holiday purchase, second-hand.

Ago 13, 2014, 9:38 am

I've definitely added some of these to my tbr list. I admire your ability to stick so much to one topic. I used to read more like that, but now I find I need the variety (and unfortunately a lot of topics I'd love to explore in depth don't have much published as audiobooks, which are what I mostly need to use due to chronic pain).

Ago 15, 2014, 6:04 pm

Mabith - I was a very casual reader of novels and mysteries (only cosy British ones at that) until I set myself this challenge. I found it hard at first, but it has gotten easier. Being immersed in one topic helps a lot. I could not have read a lot of history or war books from several different centuries. It is like a jigsaw which is finally coming together, each book adding a bit more. I don't have the retentive memory of my youth, so I couldn't tell you in exactly which book I read a certain description of a battle, and I still can't remember military titles and jargon, but I feel I am understanding a bit more with each book.

Editado: Ago 15, 2014, 6:14 pm

Double post!

Ago 15, 2014, 6:13 pm

60. Horror in the East by Laurence Rees

A quite amazing book I picked up in Waterstone's while on holiday. The book is a companion to a BBC TV series from 2001. The author wanted to find out why seemingly normal people can, under the duress of war, commit terrible crimes against humanity. He found people in Japan who were willing to speak out about their war experiences with great honesty. His conclusions at the end of the book were very thought provoking.
He has also done two other programs and written companion books about the Germans and the Russians in WWII.

Ago 16, 2014, 1:44 pm

Finally had time to put the entire list of books read so far this year towards the beginning of the thread. Also put the list on the 75 Challenge. I will now make sure to add each book as I read it to the lists. Saves you all that scrolling, although I will still be adding comments.

Set 5, 2014, 7:10 pm

Set 11, 2014, 9:11 pm

63. Scribbles From the Same Island by Neil Humphreys
64. Final Notes From a Great Island: A Farewell Tour of Singapore by Neil Humphreys

The last three books (62, 63 and 64) are sort of a Bill Bryson take on Singapore. Neil Humphreys isn't quite as laugh out loud funny as Bryson, but maybe that's because there is not as much to poke fun of in Singapore. I have learned it is Very Clean, especially the Toilets, Very Safe, even at night, and every other street, hill, hotel and landmark is called Raffles. If your hobbies aren't eating and shopping, don't go.

Well, he was much more complimentary than that, especially the last book. He even mentioned the Armenian Church, which is where I will be going in two weeks time. A project I have been involved in for over a year is culminating in a trip to Singapore and then Burma. I can't write about it just yet, because the final bit is yet to happen, but I will be writing about it on my blog (see my Librarything profile.)

Set 14, 2014, 6:21 pm

66. History of the Armenians in India by Mesrovb J. Seth

Another book from my uncle's collection, this book deals with the Armenian traders that began to settle in Indian ports as early as the 16th century. Originally published in 1895, this is a 1988 reprint.

Editado: Out 18, 2014, 2:07 am

67. A Bachelor Girl in Burma by G.E. Mitton

Nov 11, 2014, 11:51 pm

Nov 13, 2014, 5:17 pm

70. Helen of Burma by Helen Rodriguez

Don't know how I had never heard of this. Helen stayed in Taunggyi during WWII because as a nurse she would not leave her patients. She worked as a nurse during the occupation, was accused of being a spy and tortured, resisted all sorts of personal attacks, and starved in a prison camp but survived. She kept her father and some orphaned children alive as well as supervised the health of the whole camp with very little medicine and supplies. The book is matter of fact and not boastful. You feel she has a lot more to tell. Loved it.

Nov 18, 2014, 10:13 am

Dez 1, 2014, 1:47 am

Dez 1, 2014, 5:49 am

I've had Penelope Lively recommended to me before. Did you enjoy her book?

Dez 1, 2014, 9:57 am

Yes, I did. The two very quiet and repressed characters reminded me of me and my husband :). The story catches the snobbery and aspiration of 1980's England perfectly, as well as lives lived in quiet desperation.
I have a stack of her novels, bought ages ago and in my To Read bookcase.

Dez 7, 2014, 6:52 pm

Dez 10, 2014, 6:18 pm

Dez 12, 2014, 2:35 pm

76. How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively