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King Rat

As mentioned in my opening post I like to read, a lot.  

I have recently been working my way through James Clavell’s Asian Saga.

King Rat is set In the Japanese POW camp of Changi Prison. Clavell himself spent three years in Changi so this fictional story is very much informed by his own experiences, with the character of Peter Marlowe most likely being based on his younger self., and it is possible that the “King” is based on a real prisoner named Theodore “Ted” Lewin

The book centres on the exploits of two characters the “King,” an American corporal who has become the most successful trader in the camp, and Peter Marlowe an English RAF lieutenant.

When the “King” overhears Marlowe having a conversation with another Prisoner in Malay, the “King” sees and angle and sets out to befriend Marlowe and attempt to involve him in his black market deals. This friendship in turn brings Marlowe to the attention of Robin Gray the Provost Marshal of the camp who is obsessed with catching the “King.”

The book has some pretty disturbing parts in it and its portrayal of life in the camp is polar opposites to the dignity, self sacrifice and team spirit portrayed in other works about POWs.  

Through the beginning of the book it is easy to understand why Grey hates the “King” quite so much, whilst the rest of the camp is reduced to horrendous living conditions, the “King” somehow still has freshly pressed shirts, Fried Eggs and Coffee.

The “Kings” everybody for himself attitude doesn’t make him the most likeable character, but as you get to know him through his friendship with Marlowe you realise that he isn’t the thief and con artist that Grey would have you believe, and by the end you might just find yourself on the “Kings” side.

The book is a great insight into what we may be willing to do to survive and how a brutal situation can bring out the best and worst in people, whilst the story itself is fictional Clavell’s own experience really brings the camp and its characters to life.

King Rat was the first of the Saga to be published, but the fourth in chronological order. Whilst the books do not need to be read in order, (or can in fact be read standalone) doing so will defiantly add to your enjoyment and understanding, especially in the case of Tai-Pan and Gai-Jin for example.

  1. September 19, 2013 at 12:24 am

    King Rat is the novel that made me want to be a writer. One of the best books I’ve ever read!

  1. April 24, 2012 at 10:36 pm
  2. June 12, 2012 at 9:44 pm
  3. April 3, 2013 at 12:29 pm
  4. June 15, 2013 at 9:11 pm

Dont stalk me in silence let me know your there!!

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