Journal

Review: Thief of Glory by Sigmund Brouwer

Thief of Glory was a novel that blew away my expectations. Based on the cover, I had a very different idea of what the story was compared to what I read as I turned each page. I also learned quite a bit of history I never knew before. 

Sometimes, I think those make the best books. The ones that exceed our expectations or go in a totally different direction, and especially the ones that have something to teach us. 

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**I received a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review**

A boy coming of age in a time of war… the love that inspires him to survive. For ten year-old Jeremiah Prins, the life of privilege as the son of a school headmaster in the Dutch East Indies comes crashing to a halt in 1942 after the Japanese Imperialist invasion of the Southeast Pacific. Jeremiah takes on the responsibility of caring for his younger siblings when his father and older stepbrothers are separated from the rest of the family, and he is surprised by what life in the camp reveals about a woman he barely knows—his frail, troubled mother. Amidst starvation, brutality, sacrifice and generosity, Jeremiah draws on all of his courage and cunning to fill in the gap for his mother. Life in the camps is made more tolerable as Jeremiah’s boyhood infatuation with his close friend Laura deepens into a friendship from which they both draw strength. When the darkest sides of humanity threaten to overwhelm Jeremiah and Laura, they reach for God’s light and grace, shining through his people. Time and war will test their fortitude and the only thing that will bring them safely to the other side is the most enduring bond of all.

Thief of Glory was quite different from what I was expecting. For one thing, prior to this novel, I had no idea of the camps that existed in Southeast Asia. So based on the book synopsis and the cover, I was expecting a love story set amidst the backdrop of WWII in Southeast Asia. I didn’t understand the reference to the camps.

There are two complaints I have about this novel. But both of those negative thoughts should have little impact on how wonderful this novel was. The first, is that I struggled to get into this book. The main character, Jeremiah Prins (the story is told from his perspective in first person) is quite precise and scientific. Eventually, this became part of his character and how I got to know him. If I were to reread the novel, I think I would have the same problem, but I would completely look past it. My second complaint was that the last part of the book read really slow. There was a jump in time and some confusing moments. However, by the time I reached the last page, I understood why it was written the way it was and how valuable those “boring” pages were to the scope of this incredible story.

This was a novel that touched on a number of emotions. There were a few moments where I laughed and others where I was devastated for the characters. Parts of the novel made me angry and there were moments my curiosity was piqued. I learned a lot about a part of WWII I knew nothing about and I learned quite a bit about Indonesia I didn’t know.

The actual story is really a coming of age tale for a boy, who because of his Dutch heritage in a Dutch colony is forced into a camp. The story reminds me of similar novels about the Japanese Internment camps that existed in the U.S. during the war.

By the last page, this novel becomes a powerful story. There isn’t a whole lot pointing towards God or faith in the novel, but there is a ripple of it under the the stronger currents pushing the story forward. From asking questions and doubts and trying to understand why bad things happen.

I would love to hear from you! Have you read a novel and learned about something in history you had no idea about?

For more on the author or this book, please check out the following links:

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8 thoughts on “Review: Thief of Glory by Sigmund Brouwer

  1. All the time! Some of my favorite, 1st time history lessons, were based on old lumber camps and San Francisco gold mining. It seems like just about every historical book (at least the ones that are based around actually events in history) add layers of lessons. I’ve read tons of Civil War fiction novels by now and still learn something unique with almost every one I pick up. Reading other well researched fiction was one of the fun ways I researched for my own novel. It seemed every author had a lesson to teach on the time period. I purposely read a lot of C.W. fiction while I wrote to help me learn as well as stay in character mode.

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    1. I love a good lumber camp story 🙂

      I don’t think I ever realized all the different camps that existed during WWII…. The whole thing nearly boggles my mind. But that is one of the things I love about historical fiction. I learn about something new then look for the facts about what really happened.

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      1. I didn’t know much about the camps either.
        I had a feeling you would enjoy a lumber camp story 🙂 I’m eager to read a new one…but I guess I can pick up the few I have on my list until a new one comes along.

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      2. I obviously knew about the concentration camps in Germany and the internment camps in the Japanese-American internment camps in the US, but no idea about the West Indies. Makes me wonder if there were other things like that going on elsewhere.

        I can make a couple of good lumber camp suggestions for ones set in Michigan (my favorite lumber camp stories) Jody Hedlund’s Unending Devotion and Serena Miller’s Measure of Katie Calloway (takes place just after Civil War, in a Michigan Lumber Camp, and it’s free for kindle currently)

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  2. Awesome! Thanks! I have the Katie Calloway on my “one of these days” list. It sounds awesome. I’ll have to look for Jody’s book. Deeanne Gist was the one that introduced me to both the gold mines and the lumber camp. I loved both of her books and was drawn to the subjects ever since then. I may have only read a couple others on lumber camps, but have read quite a few on various different mining camps and enjoy them.
    Two other Deeanne Gist books worth noting are A Bride Most Begrudging and Beguiled. The Bride book is set in early America. (possibly even before the RW). It’s a good frontier book. Which now that I think about it isn’t as popular as the Pioneer section. And since I know you like a good suspense, Beguiled would be a great fit.
    The first time I heard about the Japanese-American camps here in the US was through the movie, The Magic of Ordinary Days. It’s a Hallmark movie. The movie is terrific. If you haven’t seen it, add that to your things to do when you’re not reading 🙂

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    1. I’ve read a Bride most Begrudging and I loved it! I don’t think I’ve read a book by Deeanne Gist I haven’t liked. I haven’t read Beguiled yet, but it’s been on my list for awhile. I don’t think I’ve read too many novels with mining. Kristen Heitzmann has a series of books (The Diamond of the Rockies) that deal with some of the mining camps in Utah, or maybe Nevada. They were wonderful books, although the first one starts out really slow and drags on, but definitely worth sticking with it.

      I learned about Manzanar when I was prepping some lesson plans for my student teaching. For one of the classes we read a novel, Farewell to Manzanar, that is a memoir from a girl who lived in a camp. It is a fairly short YA novel.

      I haven’t seen nor heard of Magic of Ordinary Days. I’ll have to see if I can pick it up somewhere.

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      1. I’ve looked for the movie before. It can be found on Hallmark or ebay, but I’ve never seen it in the stores. It’s really good. It’s about a preacher’s daughter who gets pregnant by a soldier being shipped over seas during WWII. Her father forces her to marry a farmer far away, sight unseen. She agrees, but all the while she is writing to the baby’s daddy trying to fix things there. But, oh, the magic of ordinary days 🙂 She may soon find herself wanting things she didn’t think possible. She befriends a couple of girls from a nearby camp.
        The series you mentioned has been on my reading list for a while. I’ll have to get to it…eventually. Lol I’ve read several mining camp stories in the Love Finds You series. It seems many of the towns out west were created around mining camps of some sort. They each had their hardships. I have a great respect for the men who did this type of work. I can’t think of any one story that stands out in my mind more than the others.

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