Pandanus, $29.95 pb, 239 pp
Colin McPhedran, the son of a Burmese mother and a Scottish oil company executive father, was living a comfortable middle-class colonial life in Central Burma with his mother, sister and two brothers when the Japanese invaded the country in 1941. He was eleven years old. The invasion spread terror throughout the population, which feared the notorious savagery of the Japanese army. The European and mixed races felt particularly threatened, and Colin’s mother made the fatal decision to flee their comfortable villa and escape to India. The children’s mixed parentage concerned her; she resolved to undertake the journey with her three younger children. She was especially anxious about her fifteen-year-old daughter whose youthful European beauty would, she thought, make her a special target for sexual abuse. Colin’s father did not play any part in this disastrous decision, having escaped to Calcutta when Rangoon fell to the Japanese.