tagesmann

H E Bates
The Jacaranda Tree

18 posts in this topic

His masterly account of a cruel flight from invasion.

Paterson, manager of a small rice-mill, organizes the evacuation of a small English community when Japanese forces invade Burma.

Paterson takes with him his Burmese mistress and her young brother. The rest of the party take along their prejudices, their pettiness and their squabbles, and a small enclave of English insularity moves north through Burma.

Swiftly and inevitably the journey becomes a tragic working out of tension and insoluble conflict.

I had only read one other novel by HE Bates before this (Fair Stood The Winds For France) and as I enjoyed that so much I thought I would give this a try. This isn't a long novel and the events take place over a few days. After, what I thought, was a slow start the story picked up pace and moved along to a good conclusion. A very simple story, well-told. If you have been put off trying HE Bates because of The Darling Buds Of May, this might be a good introduction to the other side of this underrated author.

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I went through a bit of a Bates phase when I was about 19/20 (many years ago!) and managed not to read The Darling Buds of May at all(the Tv adaptation having put me off totally) . I remember reading The Purple Plain, Love for Lydia, The Triple Echo, The Jacaranda Tree and Fair Stood the Wind for France.

 

Although I'd be hard pushed to tell you what any of them were about I have a strong memory of descriptions of British summertime, countryside, and a bygone age. Reminded me in a way of L P Hartley. Thanks for reminding me!! :)

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I was fortunate enough to have read The Darling Buds Of May series long before they were televised, and enjoyed them very much.

I have also read Fair Stood the Wind For France, which I found very moving.

 

The Jacaranda Tree is one of those books whose title is so well known that I assume that i have read it...but actually, I don't believe I have. I must look out for it, and also Love For Lydia which is another book by H.E.Bates that is familiar, but I think unread (Have they both been made into films?)

 

A quick look at his bibliography makes me think that I ought to add quite a few more onto my 'one-day I'll get round to...' list. :rolleyes:

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I have also read Fair Stood the Wind For France, which I found very moving.
Yes it was.
A quick look at his bibliography makes me think that I ought to add quite a few more onto my 'one-day I'll get round to...' list. :rolleyes:
I have The Scarlet Sword on my TBR. It is a new publication by Cassell. It's good to see him back in print and with such a well resected publisher.

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It's good to see him back in print and with such a well resected publisher.

 

In the same way that Richard Yates received a new lease of life in the UK, the publisher, Methuen, is releaseing more H.E. Bates novels back onto the marketplace.

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I've just finished this novel and enjoyed it so much I had to write up a small review and then on searching BGO I find we already have a thread for this book. So here are my thoughts on the book. 

 

Bates seems to be out of fashion these days. When I mention him to fellow readers they either don’t know his work or turn their noses up as if to say they wouldn’t bother with such mundane stuff.

 

Published in 1949, set in Burma during WW2. Japan invades. A small English community fights its way to safety. Within this community we find the usual mix of tensions, sexual, racial, petty squabbles based on class and insularity, familiarity and contempt.

 

Paterson, manager of a rice mill gathers what’s left of the community together for the journey north to India. Much to the annoyance of some of his fellow passengers he also takes his Burmese mistress and her brother.

 

With an immediate connection we join them on the journey. Through the heat and the flora, the light and dust of Burma. Through the arguments, the mistakes and the deaths.

 

This isn’t some hermetically sealed message, no literary undertone, no pretence of genius just the telling of a story. The enveloping us in a time and place, characters deep enough to relate to, sympathise with, envy or despise. But not too deep that the well of wishes turns to delusion and literary allusion.

 

A short novel, one that encompasses so much of human history. Invasion, empire building, suppression, rape of land and person, hidden hatred, hidden truths leading to laziness and failures then once again invasion.

 

H. E. Bates never fails to make me care about his characters, he keeps me interested and wanting more.

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Thanks for that Tay.  When I was at school a then friend of mine couldn't see past H E Bates but I've never read him, having forgotten all about him until now.  I will now put him on the list - and this is why I love BGO

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4 hours ago, Lunababymoonchild said:

Thanks for that Tay.  When I was at school a then friend of mine couldn't see past H E Bates but I've never read him, having forgotten all about him until now.  I will now put him on the list - and this is why I love BGO

Obviously I hope you'll like his books Luna but either way will be good to hear your opinion. 

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I read Love For Lydia last year and really  enjoyed that.  RG has instructions to look for this on Amazon for me.  I have no idea why he has fallen out of fashion.

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Just noticed this post with another author I haven't read - added to the list,The Jacaranda Tree.

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 I read Castle in the Air, short story, and loved it so will definitely be exploring this author

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I bought a copy of The Jacaranda Tree from Amazon.ca for 1 cent - paperback, the only cost was postage of $6.95 - can't complain of it being overpriced! :)

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I finished this book a short while ago and have now read the other comments on this thread.  Like most other readers I have no idea why this author has fallen out of fashion, I found that I just could not put this book down.  Knowing where and when the book was set I did not expect an easy or happy read so I felt pretty well prepared for whatever the book could throw at me.

 

Unlike other readers I did not find the beginning of the story at all slow.  Yes I wanted to hurry it along but what I really wanted to do was hurry the characters along.  In some places I really did feel like shouting at them!  Knowing now as we do what many suffered in Burma at the hands of the Japanese invaders I felt a need to warn them of what was coming.  Sounds a bit daft I know but the book is so well written and the atmosphere of entitlement among the English community so deeply entrenched that I as the reader almost felt as if I was there with them.  It seems from a distance of so many years amazing that the English abroad could really believe that their little world would not be affected by the war.  Although the story may have started slowly I feel that that was the impression that Bates wanted to create.  

 

The small group were so riddled with petty prejudices and old hatreds that even though they all found themselves in a position where they needed to work together they just could not let go of past feelings.  As the story unfolds we see it through the eyes of the different members of the group. I found this to be one of the best parts of the book.  It enables the reader to see not just the present situation but in some cases the years leading up to it and so understand each member of the group a little more. Along with the story itself the reader gains a real view of the time and the type of English community abroad involved in the journey.  All the prejudices and petty conflicts of the time are on view.

 

The book has a strong atmosphere, I could almost feel the heat and taste the dust.  As I have already said the book is so well written that I almost felt as if I was there with the group.  As the story unfolds my desire to shout at some of the members increased.  Many of the characters are wonderfully drawn and I could see them clearly in my minds eye almost as if I were watching an old film and not reading the book at all.

 

As with Love For Lydia, although a very different story and very different setting, I finished the book with a feeling of lose.  Both books had an atmosphere of pathos about them I found and I felt a little ache for some of the characters involved.  As with Love For Lydia I am sorry to have finished the book and feel as if I have left some of the characters to fend for themselves.  The sign I think of a well written book.

 

This is a book that I will remember for some time I suspect and would certainly recommend it others.  I will certainly be reading other books by the same author.

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What a great review cherrypie. It reminded me of how much I enjoyed this book and that I need to seek more HE Bates.

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It IS a great review.  So I tried to order it on my kindle.  Not available.  Bummed.  I even checked if there were alternative names.

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Binker I bought it from Amazon.UK in paperback form. It seems to me it was listed at 01 cents and just had to pay the postage which seemed odd.

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Have just finished  this book and thought it was a great story, well written.  CP's review is right on.  It's not a long book but it captures so well how the English with a sense of entitlement move in and take over but it also shows how danger and tragedy become an equalizer.  The little group from the well established English community who band together to escape the advancing Japanese are a mixed bunch who through trials and disasters become just people trying to survive.  

 

Anyone who would like to have my copy of the book can message me with their address and I'll send it on.  It's certainly a worthwhile read. 

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