It wasn’t until I read Liz Tolsma’s blog about “Remember the Lilies” that I was able to picture the Santo Tomas Internment Camp in Manila, in the Philippines during the Japanese occupation. This picture made all the difference as I put together my thoughts about this novel.
Santo Tomas Internment Camp
I could not wrap my head around the description of this camp in the midst the campus of a former university. I was a little frustrated by this inability to picture this area in my mind. That’s how I judge a book sometimes. If I am able to picture the events in my mind, it’s almost like watching a movie as I read.
The story opens right after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the subsequent bombing of Manila and the occupation by the Japanese. Non-Philippines are interred here for the duration of the war or until their rescue by the American forces as they make their way to defeating the Japanese in the Far East.
Rand Sterling is a night club and casino owner in Manila who is interred. Irene Reynolds is a missionary working in the censure’s office at Santo Tomas. The two meet when Irene finds a note that was sent to Rand about a planned escape. She tries to warn him that the Japanese know about his attempt, but is too late. Rand is sent to Fort Santiago and tortured after his escape is thwarted. After he is released from Fort Santiago, broken in body and spirit, Irene finds him there. Both try to ignore their growing affection for the other because the time and place are not right. The constant fear of the Japanese and fear of reprisals for the tiniest infraction are their daily companions.
I really enjoyed reading this book. I read “Snow on the Tulips”, also written by Ms. Tolsma and very much enjoyed reading it. Because that novel was set in The Netherlands during World War II, I was unsure how this book would compare set in a different theatre of war. I thought that “Remember the Lilies” had some parts that were hard to picture. There were so many different things going on in the novel that I had a hard time keeping up.
I would highly recommend that you read all of Ms. Tolsma’s novels for a very authentic fictional account of what might have happened all those years ago. I was offered a free Kindle copy of this book by NetGalley.com in return for my honest review of the book.