The Bird in the Bamboo Cage; evocative and emotionally charged

The history of World War II in the Far East is not nearly as well known as what happened in Europe but the stunning new novel from award winning author Hazel Gaynor delivers an authentic, emotional portrayal of its brutal impact. Especially on children from Britain, America and other nations, their teachers and the Chinese rural community.

Trust me, inspired by true events The Bird in the Bamboo Cage is an unforgettable read. It is an evocative, character driven story that warmed my heart, broke my heart, made me smile and made my cry. In fact I struggled to read the last 40 pages or so because I was crying that much. I swear I could hardly see the words on the page because they were so blurred from my tears. To say this book moved me is truly an understatement. I was completely captivated.

This weekend (Saturday 15th August 2020) marks the 75th anniversary of Victory in Japan Day (VJ Day); and the timing of this beautiful novel’s release couldn’t be more apt. It’s published in the UK on 20th August 2020. Seriously, I urge you to read it as soon as you can.

The daughter of missionaries, ten-year old Nancy boards at the Chefoo School in the Shantung Province of China. She painfully misses her mother but adores her two best friends affectionally nicknamed Mouse and Sprout. She also loves being involved in the 2nd Chefoo Brownies and is so proud of her Brownie achievements. Her Brown Owl is also her teacher, Miss Kent.

Elspeth Kent is on the brink of resigning from her teaching role in China and returning to her life in Yorkshire when Japanese soldiers suddenly occupy the school in December 1941. The soldiers take over control bringing with them a chilling sense of violence, fear and uncertainty.

As the story unfolds and is mainly told from the point of view of Nancy and Elspeth, we are confronted with what their lives as ‘enemies’ to Japan involved; a life of near starvation, danger and hardship over a number of fraught years. However we are also vividly shown the beauty and strength of friendship, compassion and love. There is one chapter written from the point of view of another character. The subtle power of the voice within this one short chapter took my breath away.

Hazel Gaynor

The Girl Guide theme beautifully runs throughout the novel, surprising me with warm, nostalgic feelings as I recalled elements of being a Brownie and Guide that I had long forgotten.

The theme of sunflowers, that ‘grow anywhere with strong roots‘ is also a beautiful and enduring theme, symbolising resilience, friendship and love.

The Bird in the Bamboo Cage and its characters will stay with me for a long time. It is a truly stunning and powerful read.

Thank you Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to be part of the UK blog tour to help publicise The Bird in the Bamboo Cage. You can read the reviews from my fellow book bloggers also on the blog tour – just see below for more details. Thank you also to Jen Harlow from Harper Collins for arranging my advance copy in return for my honest review. As soon as I started reading this book I couldn’t put it down!

I’ve just seen on Twitter that The Bird in the Bamboo Cage has been selected as the #HarperFictionFiday book for next Friday, giving you the chance to ask Hazel Gaynor any questions about this great read. This is taking place on Twitter at 1pm on Friday 21st August. Get involved! 🙂

My rating:



  1. August 15, 2020 / 2:18 am

    I do find the WWII history in the Pacific very interesting, maybe because it was closer to home! This is now on the list.

  2. August 15, 2020 / 2:00 pm

    Funny, I got the ARC for this book, but the one I got us for the American version which is called When We Were Young and Brave! I like the title (and cover art) for this one better!

  3. August 17, 2020 / 9:54 am

    Huge thanks for the blog tour support Kirsty x

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