The Bird in the Bamboo Cage by Hazel Gaynor
English | 2020| General Fiction/Classics | ePUB | 2.1 MB
When war imprisons them, only kindness will free them…
China, 1941. Elspeth Kent has fled an unhappy life in England for a teaching post at a missionary school in northern China. But when Japan declares war on the Allies and occupies the school, security and home comforts are replaced by privation, uncertainty and fear.
For ten-year-old Nancy Plummer and her school friends, now separated from their parents indefinitely, Miss Kent’s new Girl Guide patrol provides a precious reminder of home in a land where they are now the enemy.
Elspeth and her fellow teachers, and Nancy and her friends, need courage, friendship and fortitude as they pray for liberation. But worse is to come. Removed from the school, they face even greater uncertainty and danger at a Japanese internment camp, where cruelty and punishment reign.
Inspired by true events, this is an unforgettable read about a remarkable community faced with unimaginable hardship, and the life-changing bonds formed in a distant corner of a terrible war.
I hadn’t meant to say the words out loud. Self-pity was not a trait to be admired, and homesickness was considered ‘sentimental nonsense’. We were often reminded how disappointed our parents would be to learn that we were thinking only of ourselves, but still, it was unfair that I couldn’t see Mummy, and I didn’t care that I’d said so.
Miss Kent asked me to join her at the window. We stood for a moment, side by side in silence. I wondered if she might place a comforting arm around my shoulder, but she kept her arms folded and looked straight ahead.
‘What do you see outside?’ she asked.
I reached up onto my tiptoes. Beyond the window, several school servants, dressed in their uniforms of cropped black trousers and a white blouse with knotted buttons, were busy with various tasks. ‘I can see Shu Lan carrying a basket of laundry. And Wei Huan, with a rake and broom …’ I trailed off as we watched them work.
Wei Huan, one of the school gardeners, had helped us with our Gardener badge for Brownies that summer. He called us his ‘Little Flowers’. Shu Lan was less friendly and wasn’t very popular among the girls as a result. If we interrupted her before she’d finished tidying our dorm, she would shoo us away with her hands, and mutter things at us in Chinese.
‘Perhaps it isn’t fair that Shu Lan has to carry that heavy basket, full of our dirty bedsheets,’ Miss Kent said. ‘Or perhaps it isn’t fair for Wei Huan to sweep up the leaves that we walk over and kick into the air, for fun.’
I thought about my amah,one of many ‘little mothers’ at the Mission compound in Shanghai, who’d helped with domestic chores while our parents carried out their missionary work. Having our own servant had been a novelty when we’d first arrived from England, but I hardly noticed them now. I certainly didn’t think about all the work they did to make our lives more comfortable.
‘We might see them as the school’s servants, but that’s just their job,’ Miss Kent continued. ‘They’re also somebody’s daughters and sons, and no doubt they also receive disappointing news from time to time, and wish they could see their mothers more often. Life isn’t always fair for them, either.’