Goodbye Burma

Written by Jean Ellis
Review by Christoph Fischer

Goodbye Burma is inspired by the author’s family’s experience during the Japanese invasion of British-held Burma in 1942. It focuses on several British characters on their different journeys to safety. The novel is well researched and benefits from authentic family documents utilised to give a more complete picture. The plot is rich, and the emotional tapestry incorporates personal human experiences of war, hardship and loss.

What I enjoyed most were the immaculate portrayal of the retreat and some of the reflections on war as a whole. The writing is apt for the times, and academics and researchers will find this a treasure chest. It is very much a labour of love. That said, I felt the separate strands of the story could have benefited from being glued together by more than the family bonds so as to go beyond a retelling of family history. A small segment of the book is set in 1985 when Chrissie, a descendant of the evacuees, finds a diary and discusses it with her father in order to find out more about the family history. This is told in annotations to the diary segments, which, as a narrative tool, caused me to feel a distance from the plot and characters. But the book does tell a good story.