For ten year-old Jeremiah Prins, a life of privilege as the son of a school headmaster in the Dutch East Indies comes crashing to a halt in 1942. When the Japanese Imperialist army invades the Southeast Pacific, and his father and older stepbrothers are separated from the rest of the family, Jeremiah takes on the responsibility of caring for his younger siblings. But he is surprised by what life in the camp reveals about his frail, troubled mother—a woman he barely knows.
Amidst starvation, brutality, sacrifice and generosity, Jeremiah draws on all of his courage and cunning to fill in the gap his father and brothers left behind. Life in the camps is made more tolerable as Jeremiah’s boyhood infatuation with his close friend Laura deepens into a friendship from which they both draw strength.
When the darkest sides of humanity threaten to overwhelm Jeremiah and Laura, they reach for God’s light and grace, shining through his people. Time and war will test their fortitude and the only thing that will bring them safely to the other side is the most enduring bond of all.
|Publisher:||The Crown Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)|
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Journal 1—Dutch East Indies
A banyan tree begins when its seeds germinate in the crevices of a host tree.
It sends to the ground tendrils that become prop roots with enough room for children to crawl beneath, prop roots that grow into thick, woody trunks and make it look like the tree is standing above the ground. The roots, given time, look no different than the tree it has begun to strangle. Eventually, when the original support tree dies and rots, the banyan develops a hollow central core.
In a kampong—village—on the island of Java, in the then-called Dutch
East Indies, stood such a banyan tree almost two hundred years old. On foggy evenings, even adults avoided passing by its ghostly silhouette, but on the morning of my tenth birthday, sunlight filtered through a sticky haze after a monsoon, giving everything a glow of tranquil beauty. There, a marble game beneath the branches was an event as seemingly inconsequential as a banyan seed taking root in the bark of an unsuspecting tree, but the tendrils of the consequences became a journey that has taken me some three score and ten years to complete.
It was market day, and as a special privilege to me, Mother had left my younger brother and twin sisters in the care of our servants. In the early morning,
before the tropical heat could slow our progress, she and I journeyed on back of the white horse she was so proud of, past the manicured grounds of our handsome home and along the tributary where my siblings and I often played.
Farther down, the small river emptied into the busy port of Semarang. While it was not a school day, my father—the headmaster—and my older half brothers were supervising the maintenance of the building where all the blond-haired children experienced the exclusive Dutch education system.
As we passed, Indonesian peasants bowed and smiled at us. Ahead, shimmers of heat rose from the uneven cobblestones that formed the village square.
Vibrant hues of Javanese batik fabrics, with their localized patterns of flowers and animals and folklore as familiar to me as my marbles, peeked from market stalls. I breathed in the smell of cinnamon and cardamom and curry powders mixed with the scents of fried foods and ripe mangoes and lychees.
I was a tiny king that morning, continuously shaking off my mother’s attempts to grasp my hand. She had already purchased spices from the old man at one of the Chinese stalls. He had risen beyond his status as a singkeh, an impoverished immigrant laborer from the southern provinces of China, this elevation signaled by his right thumbnail, which was at least two inches long and fit in a curving, encasing sheath with elaborate painted decorations. He kept it prominently displayed with his hands resting in his lap, a clear message that he held a privileged position and did not need to work with his hands. I’d long stopped being fascinated by this and was impatient to be moving, just as
I’d long stopped being fascinated by his plump wife in a colorful long dress as she flicked the beads on her abacus to calculate prices with infallible accuracy.
I pulled away to help an older Dutch woman who was bartering with an
Indonesian baker. She had not noticed that bank notes had fallen from her purse. I retrieved them for her but was in no mood for effusive thanks, partly because I thought it ridiculous to thank me for not stealing, but mainly because
I knew what the other boys my age were doing at that moment. I needed to be on my way. With a quick “Dag, mevrouw”—Good day, madam—I bolted toward the banyan, giving no heed to my mother’s command to return.
For there, with potential loot placed in a wide chalked circle, were fresh victims. I might not have been allowed to keep the marbles I won from my younger siblings, but these Dutch boys were fair game. I slowed to an amble of pretended casualness as I neared, whistling and looking properly sharp in white shorts and a white linen shirt that had been hand pressed by Indonesian servants.
I put on a show of indifference that I’d perfected and that served me well my whole life. Then I stopped when I saw her, all my apparent apathy instantly vanquished.
As an old man, I can attest to the power of love at first sight. I can attest that the memory of a moment can endure—and haunt—for a lifetime. There are so many other moments slipping away from me, but this one remains.
What is rarely, if ever, mentioned by poets is that hatred can have the same power, for that was the same moment that I first saw him. The impact of that memory has never waned either. This, too, remains as layers of my life slip away like peeling skin.
I had no foreshadowing, of course, that the last few steps toward the shade beneath those glossy leaves would eventually send me into the holding cell of a
Washington, DC police station where, at age eighty-one, I faced the lawyer—
also my daughter and only child—who refused to secure my release until I
promised to tell her the events of my journey there.
All these years later, across from her in that holding cell, I knew my daughter demanded this because she craved to make sense of a lifetime in the cold shade of my hollowness, for the span of decades since that marble game had withered me, the tendrils of my vanities and deceptions and self-deceptions long grown into strangling prop roots. Even so, as I agreed to my daughter’s terms, I maintained my emotional distance and made no mention that I intended to have this story delivered to her after my death.
Such, too, is the power of shame.
Beneath the banyan, a heart-stopping longing overwhelmed me at the glimpse of her face and shy smile. It was romantic love in the purest sense,
uncluttered by any notion of physical desire, for I was ten, much too young to know how lust complicates the matters of the human race.
The sensation was utterly new to me. But it was not without context. At night, by oil lamps screened to keep moths from the flame, I had three times read Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott, the Dutch translation by Gerard Keller. As soon as the last page was finished, I would turn to page one of chapter one. I
had just started it for the fourth time. Thus I’d been immersed in chivalry at its finest, and here, finally, was proof that the love I’d read about in the story also existed in real life.
I was lost, first, in her eyes—unlike many of the Dutch, a hazel brown—
which regarded me with a calmness that pulled stronger than gravity. She looked away, then back again. I felt like I could only breathe from the top of my lungs in shallow gasps. Her hair, thick and blond and curled, rested upon her shoulders.
She wore a light-blue dress, tied at the waist with a wide bow, with a yellow butterfly brooch on her right shoulder. She stole away from me any sense of sound except for a universal harmony that I hadn’t known existed. So as the nine-year-old
Laura Jansen bequeathed upon me a radiant gaze, I became Ivanhoe, and she the beautiful Lady Rowena. Standing at the edge of the chalked circle, I was instantly and irrevocably determined that nothing would stop me from becoming champion of the day, earning the right to bestow upon her the honor of
Queen of the Tournament.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
There comes some novels that are so rare and deep that when you finish them, you are left as though you have no breath left in your body. As if you are reliving something so horrible, you wish it were all simply a bad dream. But this is not the case with a different type of christian historical novel from Sigmund Brouwer, Thief of Glory and it is definitely a story of unspeakable horrors that occurred for one boy and his family that lived during the Japanese Imperialist invasion of the Dutch East Indies during WWII. For me, it was a story I had never heard nor could never imagine, but know that stories like these have happened and have never been told except to close family members. I caution the reader, it is not for the faint of heart and the horrors described as a young boy, Jeremiah Prins and his younger brother and sisters, along with his mother are moved to a concentration camp when the Japanese invaded the Dutch East Indies islands, which is present day Indonesia. When Jeremiah's father and older brothers are taken, his father firmly reminds him that it is his responsibility now to take care of what remains of the family. Jeremiah has grown up a bit unique in never learning to fear anything, never to cry and to always let the first fight be initiated by someone else. They will always need to hit first. But Jeremiah is also smart beyond his years when he is able to converse like someone much older and wiser and that often takes his opponents by surprise, not knowing if he is serious or simply stalling for time. Jeremiah's passion is marbles, one he takes great pride in adding to his growing collection through his many games with the children in the neighborhood and subsequently in the camp when he is detained there. It is his only connection to a normal life while living someplace that most would simply refer to as hell. Outside the fenced enclosure, life continues on as normal while all the Dutch people are rounded up by the Japanese. The leaders of the camp, known as Jappenkamp, know that in order to maintain a sense of control, certain restrictions are necessary, from keeping people in overcrowded conditions, keeping food rations at the point of keeping the people from starving at first, and convincing them all that anything less than respect for the leaders will result in punishment of their mothers, no matter if the disrespect came from the adult or child. It is a chilling reminder of the horrors some had to endure just to survive a war in which they were not involved with directly but simply based on their race. I received Thief of Glory by Sigmund Brouwer compliments of Christian Fiction Blog Alliance and Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers for my honest review. I did not receive any monetary compensation for a favorable review and the opinions here are strictly my own. I can't imagine how far someone would have to be pushed in order to survive and what you would have had to do, just to make it through the next day. By the time you get to the final page of the novel you gain a full understanding that things you witness are not always as they appear and that those who endured spending time in concentration camps are our true survivors and heroes! This is not for younger readers, due to the content of what the novel deals with in very realistic terms, about how one boy and his family had to survive in some of the worst circumstances. If this were a movie, I believe it would be rated R due to the subject matter much like Schindler's List. However with that being said, we can't hide that these things happened simply by refusing to read about them or hear about them and I believe this one deserves a 4.5 out of 5 stars. You can help but feel as though you, yourself, were locked behind the fences right alongside Jeremiah and that to me, is an earmark of an exceptional writer.
A new book review for you guys! I had the awesome privilege of reading Thief of Glory. This book is absolutely amazing. Sigmund Brouwer is an amazing writer. For 10 year old, Jeremiah Prines, life was good. His father was school headmaster and he has 3 older half brothers, a younger brother and two younger sisters. I love the character and personality of Jeremiah. The story takes place in the Dutch East Indies. The plot is about when Japan invaded the Dutch East Indies in 1942 during World War II. Jeremiah and his family are involved in this as well as many other families. Jeremiah’s father and 3 older brothers are taken away to be workers in the camps while Jeremiah and his mother, younger brother and two sisters are taken to camps. It’s almost like Jeremiah becomes the “man” of the house. He takes care of them. While they are all being mistreated, a fellow prisoner and child of the Indies, Georgie, is lashing out at Jeremiah. Through all of this, Jeremiah is falling deeply in love with Laura which they both cling to each other and God’s love to make it through such a hard time. The story is based on true events of the author’s parents. Historical events are very accurately told. This is one of those books that you just can’t put down. I read it in just a couple days. Once you start reading it, you just have to know what happens next. If you are a WWII and history lover, you will absolutely love this book. However, even if you’re not a fan of either, I think you could still find something in this book to relate and love. I also think this is more directed for older more maturer audience. Little kids might not understand the events that occurred. Overall, I would definitely recommend this book! 5 stars! I received this book for free from Blogging for Books Program in exchange for my honest review.
I have about 40 pages left. I can't wait for it to end. just too long. story is dragging.
This is an incredible book. I was intrigued to find out that there were Japanese concentration camps in the Dutch East Indies. I thought I knew all about World War ii, but this was a new twist for me. Seeing the camp through the eyes of a child was heartbreaking, but Brouwer does an amazing job of making it very real. And without giving anything away, I have to say that I was really impressed with the ending. I thought surely there wouldn't be anything much left to say, but he managed to finish it with some surprises. Wonderfully written!
Of the books I've read from Sigmund Brouwer's pen, Thief of Glory is my favorite. In his signature storytelling style, this work of historical fiction is reminiscent of a memoir, shared like a series of journal entries written in the first person from the perspective of a 10-year-old boy; it is a completely fictional account of one family's nightmarish experience of interment in a Japanese concentration camp during World War II. Yet the details are hauntingly real. Jeremiah lived with his parents and siblings on the island of Java. His father was the schoolmaster of the Dutch colonists. His income allowed them to live prosperously in their little village, with servants from the community. Jeremiah's blended family had two sets of siblings. There were three older half-brothers and his birth siblings--twin sisters and a little brother. Jeremiah was the eldest of his birth family. His lovely mother suffered from a mental illness where she frequently went into a dark phase of isolation. Often she was emotionally inaccessible. Jeremiah and his father were used to taking care of his family during these times. He took special care of his younger brother, Pietje (sounds like PJ). The little guy followed him around like a puppy. The tragic portion of the story began when the Japanese arrived on the island. They removed the older boys and men, taking them to labor camps, some to work on the infamous Burma railroad. Jeremiah's father and brothers never returned. Before he left, he gave charge of his young family to Jeremiah's care. At this point, we are aware that the boy is a scrapper, a tough young man, and smart. He believes he is up for the challenge. It wasn't long after the men were taken when the Japanese came for the women and children. They were placed in "Jappencamps", where each family lived in a single room of a house. The bulk of this amazing story occurs in this place of captivity. One element meaningful to me was the author's use of a few powerful metaphors. The banyan tree represents moments in time that leave an indelible impression for life. It also is used to represent the consequences of moments which pervades our lives to the end. The second metaphor was the impression left by reading Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe a number of times on Jeremiah. Jeremiah saw himself as Ivanhoe and Laura Jansen as Lady Rowena from the moment he laid eyes on her at the village's marble game. Consequently, when another boy named Georgie Smith vied for her attention, Jeremiah was ready to fight for her, even in the Jappencamp. The second thing that struck me as an amazing factor in this story were the details of life in the camp. While these details are secondary to the plot, they lend an atmosphere of authenticity to the events that took place. In the preface, it's mentioned that these details came from the author's parents, especially his father who spent years in a similar situation as Jeremiah. Yet he survived and returned home to his loved ones, and in particular the author's mother. I think it's the stark realism of this tale which plucked at my heartstrings so much. Toward the end, I even forgot the story was supposed to be fiction. The thing that surprised me most about this book was that reading this from a pre-teen's viewpoint meant that, like Tom sawyer and Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, there were the inevitable light moments and chuckles. Even in the midst of the horrendous circumstances he was in with his family, Jeremiah's antics and escapades were often funny, in a dark sort of "stick-to-you" type of way. Call it comic relief. I don't want to sound insensitive to the victims of such horrors, but the author managed to include many enjoyable instances as a sort of foil to the seriousness of the situation. All of this meant I could hardly put the book down because of the suspense. It was all about surviving the war with his sanity and sense of self intact. Like me, you may be surprised how the book ends. I didn't see it coming at all. If you enjoy a fresh perspective of a historical fiction and/or love what Sigmund Brouwer writes, I can heartily recommend this book to you. For the rest of you, try something new; I think this book is worth it. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Waterbrook Press and the website, Blogging for Books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
I simply loved this book. It is very well written. It keeps your attention as you just have to find out what happens. The story begins with a flashback in time --- our main character, Jeremiah Prins is an old man sitting in jail. His daughter asks him to tell his story. He realizes that "to tell our story makes us human, and to be human is to tell our story." p. 275 His flashback is the story as he begins to journal it for his daughter to read after he is dead. It is an amazing story of survival. The setting for Thief of Glory is in an internment camp after the Japanese invasion and occupation of the Dutch East Indies. The author depicts the difficult struggles faced by those in the camp. It is truly a very good book. This is a story that needs to be told so that events like this can be prevented from ever happening again. It is truly horrific what the Japanese allowed to occur in the camps. The book highlights the struggles of a 10 year old boy - boyhood rivalries, family dynamics, and first loves. It is also about reconciliation and forgiveness - both for others and ones self. A great quote from the book - "I did not like him, but in the moment I could feel love for him. It would be wonderful if we could always see that what we have in common as humans outweighs our differences." p. 310 If only we could all see that wouldn't the world be a better place. Truly a must read book.
Thief of Glory is by far my most favorite book of the year. Sigmund Brouwer begins with a dedication page detailing how his own parents, bolstered by their love for each other, left behind the Netherlands and immigrated to Canada. They also left behind the shadows of how the World War II years had affected their childhoods, one in Europe and the other in the Dutch East Indies. From that introduction, he takes us back to Dutch East Indies to imagine the story of another childhood love that will survive decades after the battles cease. On the surface, this is the story of ten year old Jeremiah and how he survives the years that his family is interned in the Jappenkamp, a make shift concentration camp set up to imprison the Dutch colonials of the Dutch East Indies. At that level, readers will see Jeremiah as a smart alecky boy who thrives on beating the other boys at marbles. Behind what seems like innocent games, we see that Jeremiah is clever, quick to assess other people's weaknesses, and equally quick to protect those he loves. When he meets newcomer Laura, Jeremiah knows that he has met his true love. He reacts with a protective loyalty that places him on a dangerous collision course with his nemesis Georgie. Soon Jeremiah's older half brothers and his father are sent off to labor on the infamous Burma Railway and the young boy is left to be the caretaker of his family, which includes his mother, *(pregnant and often mentally unstable), twin sisters, and a younger brother, Pietje. As food and medical provisions dwindle, Jeremiah's life becomes a dangerous game of survival -- one he plays as craftily as he once played the marble games of childhood. Soon the boy who has lost almost everything and everyone becomes the lifeline to the women and children of the prison camp. Many aspects of this book propel it beyond the ordinary. First of all, is the unexpected ending to the book. I am still reeling from it, even hours after finishing the book. I SO wish I had someone to discuss that ending with, but I will not share a bit of it. No spoilers here! I can share that Brouwer does an excellent job of making the unique natural world of the island part of the story. A banyan tree, a python, poisonous processionary caterpillars, and a rabid dog all play pivotal roles. When you think about ten year old boys, no matter where they are or what the circumstances, somehow they will have encounters with "wildlife" and and Brouwer's inclusion adds layers of realism to the story. More realism comes from the inclusion of Adi, a young native boy, whose deformity makes him isolated and tormented by his own people. One of the lowest of society and among the weakest, his ability to help Jeremiah will have you discussing the difference between the world's view of importance and God's. I know I mention this often when reviewing historical fiction, but I appreciate authors who add to my historical knowledge base. I don't just want a story with a backdrop of another time. When I close the book for the last time, I want an accurate perspective of that time period, hopefully with details I've never know before. Reading Thief of Glory gave me an understanding of the anti-Dutch sentiment among the island natives who had been under European control for over 350 years, making them easy targets for the Japanese promises that they would be allowed self-rule after the war if they supported the Japanese. I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books for review purposes. If I had to give it a starred rating, this would be a 5 plus!
I won this book in a contest and am very glad I did. This compelling story gripped me quickly and kept my interest in what life was like for the Dutch in what is now Indonesia. This was in the time of WWII and demonstrated the trials, hunger and sickness found in the Jappenkamps. The main characters learned to stand up for what they believed. Don't hesitate to read this book.
Three came home was one and another whose name i forget but was a movie where the boy no parents friend is a japanese boy being trained for a kumakasi pilot another was an autobio about a woman stranded in singapore married a chinese to keep out of camp( his third wife) then married an english officer who was. was different view as was still movibg in same multi culture society with swiss south american portagese india neutrels