A story that teaches: Review of Remember the Lilies by Liz Tolsma

liliesEither World War II fiction is hot right now or I’m just more drawn to those stories than I ever have been. Whatever the reason, Liz Tolsma’s Remember the Lilies is another strong offering in the World War II fiction genre. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from the author in exchange for my review.)

Unlike her first two books, Snow on the Tulips and Daisies are Forever, which take place in Europe, her latest focuses on the Santo Tomas Internment Camp in the Philippines, an area of World War II history about which I am under-educated. I would expect I’m not alone. American civilians were held there for a good chunk of the war and Tolsma’s book portrays what conditions were like for those who experienced it.

The story focuses on Rand Sterling, who, before the war, was a successful American businessman in Manila, and Irene Reynolds, who was raised among missionaries in the Phillipine jungle. Both are prisoners at the camp. After a failed escape attempt by Rand, their paths cross more often and the two become friends trying to make the best of the worst circumstances.

Of Tolsma’s three books, this was my least favorite. It covers a large chunk of time in which the two main characters are prisoners. Months and years pass, noted by a paragraph, and the “action” is limited to the activities of prisoners in the camp. It wasn’t boring, not in the least, but the journey the characters were on was more of an internal one. The danger was more subtle and psychological than in the other books.

Still, it’s a great story, and I’m so grateful for the untold stories Tolsma is telling with her books. Tolsma’s research and attention to detail are so good I feel like I’ve been in a history class. The scenes depict realistic suffering–violent punishment, starvation–so if that bothers you, just be forewarned.

I’d encourage you to check out any of Tolsma’s books for a better idea of what it was like to live through World War II. I’m always more thankful for the sacrifices of the people who lived during that time period after I read one of Tolsma’s books.

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