Sunday, April 16, 2017

KING RAT



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King Rat, James Clavell, Little Brown and Company, 1962, 490 pp


At last, the final book on my 1962 reading list. I read this a long time ago before I was keeping my reading log, so sometime in the 1980s. It was my first experience with what I now call Prison Camp Lit. The dirt, the starving, the dysentery, etc. Ugh.

I remember it as a shorter book. The reprint I got from my local library contains sections left out of the original publication in 1962, giving a look at some of the wives and girlfriends of the prisoners and what they were going through while their men were in the camp. Some people on Goodreads (mostly men) didn't like having those parts added; they felt it broke the spell. I say, it was some much needed relief.

In any case, I am glad I reread it. I had no idea about such things in the 1980s. My, how innocent I was. Imagine writing regularly to someone you loved, not knowing if he was even still alive, not knowing if he got your letters.

I hadn't remembered much except for the King and the rat farm. I hadn't known that the book was based on Clavell's experience in such a camp in WWII and that Peter Marlowe was based on himself.

Though the rest of his Asian Saga books are so very long, I think I may reread them also as I come to them in My Big Fat Reading Project. At least I already know they are not set in a prison camp. 


(King Rat is available in various formats by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.) 

8 comments:

  1. Okay so this is the Shogun author right? I haven't read his large novels but I know they were very popular. Sounds like this one was a prison camp out of Singapore in WWII. Must have been dreadful conditions.

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    1. Yes, Shogun. I think I have read them all. They give an exciting picture of the far east. You are also right about the location. Dreadful is too bland a word for the conditions.

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  2. I read Shogun years ago and have been thinking about rereading it. I've never tried any of his other books, but this one sounds interesting. If I do read it, I'll make sure I get a copy with the wives and girlfriends sections - thanks for mentioning that.

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    1. Glad I could tempt you Helen!

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  3. I remember my husband reading this book and being affected by it. He also was fascinated by the book Andersonville, another prison camp saga, and still talks about it occasionally. I find it interesting psychologically that this gentlest of men can read and be fascinated by such literature. (He also frequently watches the "Hitler channel," or History channel as it calls itself, on television!) I salute you for having the intestinal fortitude to read King Rat. I won't be reading it. I know my limits.

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    1. I have read Andersonville also. It almost did me in. So close to home in a way, while King Rat is far far away. I don't feel these books are required reading, especially these days. It is good to know one's limits.
      Also, I am sure you commented on the Alice Zogg post and I answered your comment, but it appears to have been lost in the shuffle of the changes I made on the blog settings. Just wanted you to know I did see it the other day.

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  4. Interesting review. It sounds like a brutal story.

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    1. Stories set in prison camps are always brutal.

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