A CHOICE OF EVILS
This epic novel is set against the backdrop of the Sino-Japanese war, from the time Japan annexed Manchuria in the early 1930s until the end of the Second World War.
During these years a militaristic Japan pursued an aggressive dream to colonize not only China but also the whole of South-East Asia and beyond. The brutal sacking of Chiang Kai-shek’s new capital, Nanking, which refused to surrender to the Imperial Army, was a graphic example of Japanese retribution in a war of punishment. During six horrendous weeks the city was shut off from the world, and several hundred thousand Chinese died in an orgy of killing and rape at the hands of a marauding Japanese army.
The story of these tumultuous years is told through the lives of a disparate group of fictional characters, people in flight from both political tyranny and themselves. A young Russian woman émigré is caught between her complex love affair with a British journalist and an overwhelming passion for a liberal minded Japanese diplomat who dares to stand by his conscience against all odds. An Indian nationalist working for Japanese intelligence, a Chinese professor with communist sympathies, an American missionary doctor and a Japanese soldier are all brought together by the monstrous dislocation of war and the need to stand witness to humanity’s basest acts.
While A Choice of Evils vividly portrays the terrorizing of Nanking and the political events that led up to it, there are also moments of great personal tenderness. Enmeshed in a savage world beyound their control, each character turns to the deepest part of themselves to find a way to survive.
The story ends with the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal, reuniting some characters, laying some ghosts to rest and opening the curtain on a new, post-war Japan. Evil, it turns out, is not one-side.