MANILA, GOODBYE by Robin Prising
Kirkus Star


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Prising, who spent his eighth to twelfth year as a prisoner of the Japanese in Manila during WW II, is one of those rare chroniclers who can inhabit his own past with warmth and immediacy, yet retain the judgment and compassion of an adult who knows that it is the dead who lose wars. Prising's parents, in his affectionate portraits, were ""rich, elegant, slightly demode,"" -- a tobacco exporter and an actress -- who lived for forty years ""a life of pearl egg spoons, sterling silver and servants."" When the Japanese occupied Manila in 1941, Robin was among the crowd of 2,000 bewildered, belligerent, and terrified British and Americans herded into the university at Santo Tomas. From then on the boy's life was a series of partings and reunions with his parents who both worried and irritated him. Robin was in and out of children's detention homes, stayed briefly with his parents at the home of an ancient Spanish lady and then was at the last placed in the camp at Santo Tomas with its real hardship and starvation. The upheavals are seen mainly through a normal boy's concerns: a bullying dorm-mate, a gang-up on a dreadful gamesmistress, dyed string for his father's Christmas present (shoelaces), etc. But then as the bombardment started, and hunger and fatigue increased, he experienced his first real understanding of death, courage and utter helplessness. There is little rancor toward the Japanese (the one true tyrant appears as a kind of aberration), but instead there is throughout, a child's acceptance -- and a sad adult knowledge -- of the waste of war and the ancient sacrifices of all its victims in and out of uniform.

Pub Date: March 17th, 1975
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin