Moose's Reviews > When the Elephants Dance

When the Elephants Dance by Tess Uriza Holthe
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's review
Dec 24, 2011

really liked it
Recommended to Moose by: Mother
Recommended for: Adults
Read from December 24 to 30, 2011 , read count: 1

This book is not for the faint of heart by any means. It's graphic about the torture and suffering that the people in the Philippines went through at the hands of the Japanese during WWII. Just reading some of the experiences that people went through was horrific and disturbed me to my core.

I'm not an expert on WWII nor on the history of the Philippine Islands so I can't comment on how accurate Holthe's retelling of history is. However, her writing is captivating. The book is divided into four parts: the first and last part are told through the eyes of a 12 year old boy, the second part through his 17 year old sister, and the third through the local guerrilla leader. The third part dealing with the guerrilla leader felt a bit cliched. His character wasn't as rounded out to me as the other characters. He wasn't horribly written but I couldn't seem to find that same type of immersion into his story as I did with the other points of views.

Throughout the story Holthe weaves in Philippine folk tales and fairy tales that parallel the moral decisions the characters are facing. I was fascinated by these tales.

I would recommend this book to adults and mature teenagers. It's not light material and by no means a light read. It's disturbing. Vivid. Sad. But there's hope in it's pages. There's resilience and courage and love. It's worth the time and pain.
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12/27/2011 page 29
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message 1: by Lawyer (new)

Lawyer Irina, Very nice review. Unfortunately, most of what you read is based on fact. The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War IItells of the horrors suffered by the Chinese at the hands of Japanese invaders.

With the Old Breed, at Peleliu and Okinawa Summary, by Eugene B. Sledge, a native of Mobile Alabama, is one of the most powerful memoirs to come out of WWII. He describes the particular hatred felt by American troops against the Japanese because of the atrocities committed by Japanese troops against American forces. As the war in the Pacific progressed, American troops became more brutal in their treatment of Japanese troops because of the particular violence used by Japanese forces, including the torture and mutilation of American troops.

Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermathrecounts the brutality committed on American Prisoners of War following the fall of Corregidor and Bataan. One person interviewed in this book was a former Alabama legislator and radio station owner named Burt Bank, who wrote a personal memoir of his experiences on the death march. He called it "Back From the Living Dead." That he survived at all is a miracle. His simple, straight forward telling of his story is gut wrenching.

The Philippinos suffered terribly at the hands of the Japanese because of their alliance with American Troops. Phillipino guerrilla actions against the Japanese lasted throughout the war until the American re-invasion. Japanese troops retaliated against civilians because of guerrilla attacks.

All narrative histories I have read confirm what you recounted from this book.

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