Like The Daughters of Mars and all Keneally's best work, Shame and the Captives explores the intimacies and extraordinary aspects of ordinary lives being played out against grand world events. And this time, the events take place on home turf.
It is the lives of the farmers, townspeople and soldiers training and working in Australia, for this cataclysmic international event that is taking place at a distance, that we explore. This is not the Western Front but a NSW farming community having to deal with ‘the enemy’. Many of the townspeople and soldiers have husbands, sons, brothers who are away at war, missing, imprisoned, or perhaps dead. The moral quandary they have is deciding how to treat these PoWs in their midst.
Do they treat them with disdain, as the enemy? Or with respect and an element of care in the hope that their own loved ones on the other side of the world will be treated with the same care? Will keeping these PoWs alive in Australia keep their own people alive over there?
Alice, a young woman living a dull life with her father-in-law on his farm as her husband of less than a year fights the grand war, begins a relationship with Giancarlo, the Italian immigrant from the PoW camp assigned to work on their farm. Giancarlo is bright and charming and gives an insight into the other side of the war, a war he did not willingly participate in, nor support. Alice discovers the world is much larger and more complex than she had been given to understand.
The machinations of life in the PoW camp, the separate housing of Italians, Japanese and Koreans to accommodate all their different needs – including different sporting fancies – the concerts that take place are fascinating. But never more interesting than the lives, decision-making and relationships of those attempting to manage the camps....Continua