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Three Came Home (Borneo Trilogy #2)

4.21  ·  Rating Details  ·  365 Ratings  ·  75 Reviews
"Three Came Home" tells of the author's time in Japanese POW and civilian internee camps in North Borneo and Sarawak, and was made into a film of the same name in 1950. It describes Keith's life in North Borneo in the period immediately before the Japanese invasion in 1942, and her subsequent internment and suffering, separated from her husband Harry, and with a young son ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published October 1st 2002 by Eland (first published 1946)
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(showing 1-30 of 897)
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Aug 05, 2012 Sue rated it really liked it
I was reminded of this book today while reading a review of another book set in the same time period and circumstances. I believe I read this book when I was in junior high or high school, about 50 years ago, and my memory of it is still strong enough for the 4* rating. A reread is probably in order at some point but I believe a memory that strong certainly justifies adding it to my list of "read" books with a comment.

Thanks to Tara Masih's review of The Flamboya Tree: Memories of a Mother's War
Nov 25, 2014 Vivian rated it really liked it
Shelves: biographies
This is Agnes Keith's account of spending three years in a Japanese camp on the island of Borneo in the South Pacific during World War II. She is a gifted writer, able to create a candid portrait of internees and captors alike. My bookmark had ample space for jotting down new (to me) vocabulary. Listing the words within context will convey the feel of the book.

My vocabulary list tour through the book:

Offal (pg. 141) "The new camp site was to be over the excrement pits of the soldiers' camps, whe
Ellie Sorota
Aug 04, 2015 Ellie Sorota rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-nonfiction
I stumbled upon this accidentally. My husband surprised me one Christmas with a set of books sold by the case from Little Brown Publishing, probably clearing out their warehouse. They were all old, mostly first-edition hardbacks of young adult novels and mysteries. I picked this up expecting a quick read - a little drama, a little mystery, a little diversion. Surprised, I discovered instead a true journalistic account of a mother's three year imprisonment, along with her husband and toddler in a ...more
Aug 03, 2009 Ellen rated it liked it
Agnes Newton Keith was an American who, in the early 1940s, was married to a Brit who was the Conservator of Forests and Director of Agriculture in Civil Service in North Borneo. As the war moved closer, there was no official evacuation of any American, British or European women and children. Agnes Keith chose to stay with her husband and they, along with their young son, were interned by the Japanese from January 1942 until September 1945.

Keith had already written a novel about Borneo that had
Jun 13, 2013 Hilary rated it really liked it
Agnes Keith's story of her imprisonment in a Borneo internment camp by the Japanese during WW II is awe inspiring and amazing in so many ways. She presents her three plus years of captivity in all its horrible details but she doesn't ask the reader to feel sorry for her - more to gain strength from what she and her young son George went through and how they survived. Her civil-service British husband is kept in an adjacent camp and his situation and those of British and Australian POWs are heart ...more
Feb 14, 2012 April rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I bought this because it was in the same vein as the Santo Tomas Internment books I've been reading, though this book has nothing to do with the Philippines. It's a book about American and British civilians interned by the Japanese in Borneo, at around the same time, World War II. The writing is beautiful —very lyrical, poetic, with very long sentences, which I like. Lovely descriptions. Author is very understanding, sympathetic, so much more forgiving than I can imagine anyone to be in that sit ...more
Jan 28, 2013 Miapalencia rated it really liked it
Devoured this book in two days. It is beautifully written, with so much compassion, love and sadness. Keith offers a brutal account of her days as a prisoner of war in Japanese-captured Borneo, which she recorded down and carefully hid on bits of scrap paper at much peril. I did not feel that she was prejudiced against her Japanese captors as much as she was greatly saddened by war itself, and hate. She presents here the terrible conditions of which she survived in great detail, and I couldn't h ...more
Aug 12, 2016 Kate rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, wwii
I came to this book from the bibliography in "Ghost Soldiers" which covered the rescue of POWs from Camp Cabanatuan in the Philippines. This is a memoir by Agnes Newton Smith about the imprisonment of her husband Harry, her and their toddler George in the POW camps in Boreno. Her husband was a British civil servant in Agriculture. All would eventually end up in Kuching Prison Camp, which housed both the civilians that were rounded up when Borneo fell to the Japanese, and Australian and British P ...more
Sally Tarbox
Mar 17, 2015 Sally Tarbox rated it really liked it
The inspiration for TV series 'Tenko', 17 March 2015

This review is from: Three Came Home (Mass Market Paperback)
When the Second World War broke out in the East, the author was a popular author, living a privileged colonial life in Borneo, with her civil servant husband and toddler son. Refusing opportunities to escape back to the USA, she found herself in a series of Japanese camps with other women and children . Ms Keith relays everyday life for them - ever-decreasing rations, only made tolera
Very much a book of it's time. I found it a real challenge to get my head around teh vocabulary used when speaking about different races of people as pretty much every term used is not acceptable language these days.This made me disconnect somewhat when reading it as it made me feel uncomfortable. That being said, the terminology isn't used in a racist/derrogatory sense but feels blunt at times, no surprise when a nation is holding you captive and treating you so badly.
This book is another that
Marie Carmean
May 07, 2016 Marie Carmean rated it really liked it
This book was such an important testament to human courage and perseverance! As Agnes, her husband Harry and small son George are taken captive by the Japanese during World War II, the years ahead hold struggle, fear and overwhelming obstacles. Harry is placed in the men's camp, to undergo the horrors of internment. Agnes and little George, with the other women and 23 other children, learn to survive in the women's camp. They bargain and steal food for themselves and especially their children. T ...more
Dec 28, 2011 Rynell rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
This book made me realize that I have never had anything to complain about. I appreciated the author's candid voice and honesty. This book revolves around the themes of suffering. Violence, pain, sadness and hunger are woven into Keith's account of being a prisoner of war.

I found some typos and had to resist the urge to edit.

Apr 26, 2011 Hadrian rated it really liked it
Life in a Japanese prison camp in Borneo. Humanity and inhumanity of war. Author writes fairly about everyone, including the Japanese guards. Astonishing and touching book, and one I'm surprised hasn't been heard of more.
Feb 23, 2016 Joanna rated it it was amazing
"I know now the value of freedom"- Outstanding memoir worthy of all the praise and awards given. I usually note memorable sections or parts of the books that hit home and stay with me but there was just too much. Every word was a gem. Eye opening, humbling, touching, tragic.......Keeps my life in perspective as I take my hot showers, eat my fresh food, go to the doctor, take vitamins, wear my clean clothes, look at the roof over my head as I lay in the comfort of my warm bed. Such strength and r ...more
The second book in the Borneo trilogy, Agnes Newton Keith covers the four years that she, her husband and young son spent as prisoners/internees in the Japanese POW camps on the island of Borneo. Keith’s son was only two years old when they were rounded up and interned. She and her husband were segregated – men on one camp, women and children in another. With amazing grace and fortitude and without bitterness or anger, Keith shares the story of her life living in inhumane conditions in the camps ...more
Feb 03, 2011 Andres rated it really liked it
Shelves: ww2
Any story of being imprisoned in a Japanese POW camp during World War 2 is bound to be horrifying and compelling, but this one is exactly that---and more, due to the fact that it covers life in a woman's POW camp, a point of view not normally described in POW memoirs (since they're mostly written by male soldiers or civilians)[If I'm wrong about that please let me know!].

Agnes Newton Keith writes matter-of-factly the details of life in Borneo before, during, and after capture by the Japanese, th
Jul 26, 2012 Suzanne rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
An amazing story of this woman's discovery in a Japanese Prison Camp during WWII that hatred was self-destructive and love was more powerful than hate.

Here are a couple of quotes that I appreciated: p. 149 "Thinking was sometimes the way to wisdom, when bitter realities could be left behind in the foretasting of dreams and ambitions; but sometimes it was the way to destruction, when one was overwhelmed in an agony of despair."

p. 231-2 "Each one of us was beginning to know that it is not enough
Ashley Tiwara
Sep 10, 2014 Ashley Tiwara rated it it was amazing
Three Came Home is the best book I've yet read about WW2. Keith and her husband were separated when placed in prisoner of war camps, their young son staying with her for the duration. Of course there was little food and little nourishment in what was allotted them: Keith hopes the vitamin supplements she'd smuggled in will keep her son healthy despite the privation. Somehow, all do survive the war. A magnificent book, unfortunately forgotten for more than a half century.
Jan 02, 2016 Yukiraking rated it it was amazing
If I could give this book more stars, I would. It is one of the most beautiful, and heartbreaking books I've ever read, and I'm really glad that I gave it a try. I was hesitant, since it was a book for the book club I'm a part of, but it was definitely my favourite book of the year. It was gorgeous, and I will definitely be reading it again many times in the future.
Nanako Mizushima
Apr 26, 2014 Nanako Mizushima rated it it was amazing
One of the few WWII memoirs written by a woman. this was a very well written, vivid account of an American woman who survived in a prisoner of war camps with her young son and her husband in another camp. Fascinating stories of her encounters with the Japanese prison guards and the fellow prisoners.
Jill Manning
Feb 10, 2015 Jill Manning rated it it was amazing
If you were inspired by Unbroken, then you need to read this book as well. I read it years ago and it is a story that has stayed with me ever since. The human spirit is a powerful thing and that is demonstrated in this story. What is unique about this book is that the author was a worker before the war and had a talent for story telling. This is a first person account of life in a work camp in Borneo during WWII from a woman's and mother's perspective. Very powerful and inspiring.
Oct 21, 2015 Paula rated it it was amazing
This is a very good read the author wrote of her account of the 3 1/2 yrs that she, her son and husband spent as prisoner's of the Japanese on the Island of Borneo during WWII.
Chrisann Justice
Aug 23, 2014 Chrisann Justice rated it it was amazing
Another one of my favorite out of print books! Maybe someday it will be available on Kindle but until then it's worth snagging a used copy while they are still available.
Jamie Gilbert
Jul 03, 2015 Jamie Gilbert rated it really liked it
I highly recommend this book. It is told from a mother's perspective, as a POW, during WWII. She is an expert storyteller as she describes raising her son under Japanese captivity. It breaks your heart while inspiring you to be grateful for all your freedoms.
May 24, 2014 Wendy rated it really liked it
I have just come back from an ANZAC Tour of Borneo, so I found this book quite profound. It gave me a real journey into the Camps at Bahala and Batu Lintang, without feeling sorry for herself, Agnes Keith gives you a picture of how difficult it must have been. It's amazing what people can survive. I couldn't put it down.
Jul 20, 2016 Jenni added it
Worth a read from a civilian woman's perspective of internment. Depicted good and bad behavior on both sides, which was fair for it's time (c. 1950)
Jul 23, 2014 Beverly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a story of a family, mother, father and son, who were involved in WWII and as captives of the Japanese, walked and survived the Bataan march.
Jul 16, 2013 K.D. rated it it was amazing
This book, despite its sort of grim subject matter (the family of three was interned in a Japanese POW camp during WWII), is actually a page-turner and very moving. The author and her toddler son lived for over three years in a series of prison camps, and she vividly describes the world of such camps as few have ever done, and it's especially interesting to me as the mother of a boy the same age as her son was at the time. Their whole family survived and was reunited at the end, so at least you ...more
Jan 25, 2012 Regina rated it really liked it
As the other reviews mentioned this is a true story of a woman POW and her child who were interned by the Japanese during WWll. Some of the things that amazed me about her story were first - her respect and understanding of the Japanese - second - her clear and un-melodramatic writing and three - her will to survive. I picked this book up on a used book rack and liked it so much I put it in my school library. Big surprise - the movie with Claudette Colbert and Sessue Hayakawa was really good and ...more
Pam Ela
Jul 14, 2014 Pam Ela rated it really liked it
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Agnes Keith was born in 1901 in Illinois but grew up in Hollywood long before "Tinsel Town" became what it is today. In 1934 she married Henry ("Harry") George Keith, an Englishman whom she had first met as a childhood friend of her brother. Harry was on leave from Sandakan where he had lived since 1925 and where he served as Conservator of Forests, Director of Agriculture, and Curator of the Muse ...more
More about Agnes Newton Keith...

Other Books in the Series

Borneo Trilogy (3 books)
  • Land Below the Wind
  • White Man Returns

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“We are not pleasant people here, for the story of war is always the story of hate; it makes no difference with whom one fights. The hate destroys you.” 3 likes
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