THE STONES OF BAU by Nicholas Wollaston


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From British novelist Wollaston (Mr. Thistlewood, 1986), a colorful and affecting story of an Englishman who can never escape his WW II experiences. In 1941, Clive Ackerly is a young lieutenant aboard the Prince of Wales as it steams through the South China Sea. Back in London waits his beautiful bride, Jenny, and the expectation of an unbroken future of happiness and success. Then the Japanese planes come swooping out of the clear blue sky, and everything changes. After the Prince of Wales goes down, Clive drifts for days, is rescued by some Malay fishermen, is finally captured by some vicious Japanese troops. He ends up a horrific Bridge on the River Kwai-like POW camp in Thailand, building a railroad for the sadistic camp Commander Ishi. Thoughts of Jenny keep him alive; but when he's finally freed and returned to England, he discovers that she assumed he was dead--and is now living with an American diplomat (by whom she has a daughter, Rachel). A stunned Clive leaves England, stops briefly in Australia, then heads for the remote Mendana Islands, where he becomes a successful trader and sets up a plantation called Aurora--a little community where he is the benevolent white overseer of about 60 Mendanaians. By the 1960's, he's become a legend--a sort of Lord Jim--but his life is essentially a lonely one, filled with flashback after flashback to his POW days (and a mysterious sexual encounter with Commander Ishi). There is at last a moving reunion with Jenny (though she's now married to her diplomat), and then the plantation sinks slowly back into the jungle as Independence reaches Mendana and Clive grows old and frail. Wollaston's best yet--dramatic, scenic, always convincing.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1988
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton--dist. by David & Charles