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Read, Elfreida
Ottawa, Oberon Press, 1990. 141pp, paper, ISBN 0-88750-791-3 (paper) $12.95, ISBN 0-88750-790-5 (cloth) $25.95.

Grades 10 and up/Ages 15 and up

Reviewed by Adele M. Fasick

Volume 18 Number 5
1990 September

After fleeing the Russian Revolution, Elfreida Read's family lived for twenty years in the International Settlement in Shanghai. In this third volume of her autobiography, Read tells how their peaceful lives were shattered by the Japanese occupation during World War II.

Elfreida and her young husband George spent two and a half years interned in a Japanese POW camp. Although internees were not treated brutally, life at the camp was uncomfortable and unpleasant. Men and women who had lived privileged lives in Shanghai were reduced to scrubbing toilets and living twelve to a room. Read was fortunate enough to obtain work in the camp library and was able to participate in literary and musical groups. Like the other inmates, she suffered from cold weather and illness, including a life-threatening bout of malaria.

The book focuses on her personal experiences and growth as she struggles to adapt to the strained communal living. She emerges at the end as a mature woman ready to emigrate with her husband to a new life in Vancouver.

While many members of the camp community are vividly portrayed, Read's husband remains a shadowy figure. Mature high school readers will enjoy following the author's thoughtful portrayal of her growth under difficult conditions.

Adele M. Fasick, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ont.

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