Laura's Reviews > When the Elephants Dance

When the Elephants Dance by Tess Uriza Holthe
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Jun 05, 07

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Read in June, 2007

I was sucked into this book and found myself reading it late into the night. It takes place in the Philippines at the end of WWII when the Japanese are beginning to lose hold of the island. The is a part of fairly recent history that I shamefully didn't know much about. We always hear about Corregidor and MacArthur, because those were American sufferings and American heroes, but we never hear about how horribly the Philippine people suffered not only under the Japanese during WWII but previously under the 300 years of colonial rule by the Spanish (and then the Americans).
The story centers around a group of people hiding out in a cellar while hell ravages above. The people take turns telling stories from their pasts, and it is these stories that really make the book beautiful. They are sumptuous and exciting and sorrowful and wise and unforgettable.
Outside the stories, the world of WWII Philippines is completely horrific and difficult to read at times. My recommendation: Start this book in the morning or afternoon, not at night. The first scene is pretty gory with torture and abuse. However, if you made it through Murakami's _The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle_ with your lunch intact, then you'll probably be okay.
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