Jacob Shamsian
August 15, 2014 AT 04:00 AM EDT

It’s common to depict war as a simple conflict between good guys and bad guys, but the most compelling parts of Flanagan’s novel — about Australian soldiers in a Japanese POW camp during WWII — are from the Japanese characters’ perspectives. He shows them not only during wartime but also beforehand, when loved ones are left behind, and after, when both victory and loss are rendered hollow and meaningless in civilian life. B+

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