Book Review: Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms by Anita Heiss

Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms by Anita Heiss was just the book I needed to get me out of my reading slump! It was such a nice surprise to find it in the book shop. I had no idea Anita Heiss had a new book coming out and I’ve been meaning to read one of her books for a long time. I thought – why not start with the latest one?

Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms was a joy to read. I really enjoyed sharing Mary and Hiroshi’s beautiful story. 

5 AUGUST, 1944

Over 1000 Japanese soldiers break out of the No.12 Prisoner of War compound on the fringes of Cowra. In the carnage, hundreds are killed, many are recaptured, and some take their own lives rather than suffer the humiliation of ongoing defeat.

But one soldier, Hiroshi, manages to escape.

At nearby Erambie Station, an Aboriginal mission, Banjo Williams, father of five and proud man of his community, discovers Hiroshi, distraught and on the run. Unlike most of the townsfolk who dislike and distrust the Japanese, the people of Erambie choose compassion and offer Hiroshi refuge. Mary, Banjo’s daughter, is intrigued by the softly spoken stranger, and charged with his care.

For the community, life at Erambie is one of restriction and exclusion – living under Acts of Protection and Assimilation, and always under the ruthless eye of the mission Manager. On top of wartime hardships, families live without basic rights.

Love blossoms between Mary and Hiroshi, and they each dream of a future together. But how long can Hiroshi be hidden safely and their bond kept a secret?

There was so much to enjoy about this book. Mary and Hiroshi’s story was just one part. There was also the insight into the Aboriginal people of the time, how they lived, the attitude towards them and their stories. While I found this all fascinating, I also felt sick to my stomach at the injustice of it all.

I also found it interesting to read about the Japanese people, their culture and involvement in the Second World War.

Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms is beautifully woven Australian historical fiction. I felt a huge sense of loss when I read the last page; I just wanted more! Even now days after finishing it I still feel the need to be a part of Mary and the Wiradjuri peoples lives.

I would love for someone else to pick up this book and enjoy it like I did.

Jody

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