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Reviewed by Velma Lang for Readers' Favorite
Prisoners of war stories evoke tremendous interest and empathy with their tragedies and triumphant survival. Sally Brandle has written a fictionalized account in Sapphire Promise of Annike’s survival in the Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia. Japan overran Indonesia in 1942, interning and then imprisoning Annike and her mother. Prior to this, the story unfolds the privileged life of Annike’s family. At fifteen, she fell in love with a handsome lieutenant, battling her parents’ resistance until they married before the Japanese invasion. Annike’s nurse’s training, fluency in languages, and the family’s positive treatment of native Indonesians helped them survive the starvation and cruelty of the prisoners’ ghetto. The Japanese General Yamamoto’s compassion also saved them from the native insurgency. After liberation, Annike and her mother were reunited with their husbands. Could they restore their former life?
Sally Brandle’s Sapphire Promise provided an interesting contrast between a pre-war colonial society and the horrors of an internment camp. Her detailed descriptions of sightseeing, horse riding, and celebratory parties were vivid and engaging. This background made the characters’ survival poignant. The suspense was maintained by Annike’s and her mother’s anxiety about their husbands at war. It was refreshing and realistic that General Yamamoto’s humanity balanced the Japanese invaders’ cruelty. The author’s romantic depictions were old-fashioned in tone and nuance but appropriate for the societal conventions of that time. All in all, this is an intriguing story about the end of a colonial era and the triumph of the human spirit. I recommend this for lovers of history and romance.